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Thursday, June 11, 2009

WHO Declares Pandemic Flu Alert; CDC Challenged

News story below tells the story....coincidentally, the US Centers for Disease Control had sent a press release announcing a dial-in conference call for today at 12.45, during which CDC representatives would provide updates and respond to media questions.

Regrettably, when attempting to dial in, it was apparent that CDC communications people failed to realize that more than 10 people might try to dial in, and callers were left on hold with a message that repeatedly said "we will assist you momentarily".

Much the same way they've assisted when posed with inquiries that have asked senior officials to qualify their recommendations with regard to appropriateness of alcohol-free hand sanitizers vs. alcohol hand sanitizers. In reply, CDC has said "..[that question] is beyond the scope of the Infection Control Desk.."

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Health Organization declared the first flu pandemic of the 21st century on Thursday, urging countries to shore up defenses against the virus which is "not stoppable" but has proved mainly mild so far.

The United Nations agency raised its pandemic flu alert to phase 6 on a six-point scale, indicating the first influenza pandemic since 1968 is under way.

"This is a very important and challenging day for all of us. It is important because we will be raising our pandemic alert level to level 6," WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan told reporters on a teleconference.

"At this time, the global assessment is that we are seeing a moderate pandemic."

Acting on the recommendation of flu experts, the WHO reiterated its advice to its 193 member countries not to close borders or impose travel restrictions to halt the movement of people, goods and services.

The move to phase 6 reflects the fact that the disease, widely known as swine flu, was spreading geographically, but does not indicate how virulent it is.

A unanimous experts' decision was based on an overall assessment in the eight most heavily hit countries -- Australia, Britain, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, Spain and the United States -- that the virus is spreading in a sustained way in communities, according to Chan.

"Collectively, looking at that, we are satisfied that this virus is spreading to a number of a countries and it is not stoppable," she said.

"Moving to pandemic phase six level does not imply we will see an increase in the number of deaths or very severe cases.

"Quite on the contrary. Many people are having mild disease, they recover without medicines in some cases and it is good news," she s

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