WHO Raises Alert Level over Swine Flu SpreadWorld | April 30, 2009, Thursday // 08:33| views
WHO Director General Margaret Chan announced that all countries should activate their pandemic plans. Photo by daylife.com
The UN's World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the alert over swine flu to level five, one short of a full-blown global pandemic.
A phase five alert means human-to-human transmission in at least two countries. The move comes after a 23-month-old Mexican child died in Texas - the first death from swine flu outside Mexico, where the outbreak originated.
In Spain, officials confirmed the first case of swine flu in a person who had not travelled to Mexico.
Mexico's President Felipe Calderon addressed the nation late on Wednesday, announcing the partial suspension of non-essential work and services from 1 May to 5 May.
The efforts of the government were concentrated on containing the virus, Calderon said, urging people to stay at home with their families during the shutdown. He said he was "proud" of the response of Mexicans to the crisis, and assured people Mexico was well-stocked with anti-viral medicines.
Announcing the latest alert level after an emergency WHO meeting in Geneva, Director General Margaret Chan urged all countries to activate their pandemic plans, including heightened surveillance and infection-control measures.
She said action should be undertaken with "increased urgency". She added: "It really is the whole of humanity that is under threat in a pandemic."
Chan said that for the first time, the pandemic could be tracked in real time. This was necessary, she added, because the virus could mutate at any time into a more dangerous strain or a milder one.
Chan also stressed on Wednesday that there was no danger from eating properly-cooked pork.
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