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H1N1 Virus Reaches Pandemic Status

Last week, the H1N1 influenza virus returned to the forefront of national and world news with the announcement of its elevation to Phase 6 pandemic status by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO Pandemic Phase Descriptions indicate that the primary difference between Phase 5 and Phase 6 is related to its spread to additional regions and countries of the world, and is not related to the severity of the illness or the number of resulting deaths. Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO, in her press release on June 11, 2009 stated, “No previous pandemic has been detected so early or watched so closely, in real-time, right at the very beginning. The world can now reap the benefits of investments, over the last five years, in pandemic preparedness.”

In response to the WHO’s announcement, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano also issued a statement on June 11, 2009: “Today’s decision by the WHO was expected and doesn’t change what we have been doing here in the United States to prepare for and respond to this public health challenge.”

The most recent WHO update on June 17, 2009 12:00 GMT reports a total of 39,620 cases, an increase of 3,692 newly reported cases from the previous report on June 15. At least 76 countries have now reported confirmed cases.

For more information, please see the following websites:

Pandemic Flu.gov: http://www.pandemicflu.gov/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/

Statement to the press by WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan, June 11, 2009: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2009/h1n1_pandemic_phase6_20090611/en/index.html

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