Get Ready for Unnecessary Panic

The World Health Organization is considering to raise the Pandemic Alert level to 6 – the highest level – indicating a global pandemic.

Don’t Panic.

According to WHO:

Phase 6, the pandemic phase, is characterized by community level outbreaks in at least one other country in a different WHO region in addition to the criteria defined in Phase 5. Designation of this phase will indicate that a global pandemic is under way.

WHO Pandemic Influenza Phases

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The amount of human-to-human and community-level outbreaks in several countries in different WHO regions clearly makes this decision reasonable.  After all, Phase 5 requires the spread of the disease to only two countries in one WHO region.

H1N1 Number of Laboratory Confirmed Cases - May 3, 2009

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Are we panicking yet?

Heck no!

Just last night, Mexico was reporting that the spread of H1N1 was beginning to decline.  There is still no evidence of community spread outside of the United States and Mexico, only cases related to travel, and the morbidity and mortality rates are reasonable for seasonal influenza.  This may hold back WHO’s decision to move to alert level 6.

The latest WHO Press Briefing that addresses these issues is available here:

4 May 2009 Press Briefing by WHO’s Dr Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General ai, Health Security and Environment

I predict this signals the beginning of the end.

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