The number of influenza A(H1N1) infections has risen to 2,500 in 25 countries, the United Nations health agency reported today, while adding that there were no new deaths from the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said that Brazil and Poland have been added to the list of countries with verified cases of the new flu strain since yesterday morning.
Despite the increase in the number of cases, WHO Global Influenza Programme Director Sylvie Briand noted that the agency's global pandemic alert remains at phase 5 on its six-point warning scale, which means that sustained human-to-human transmission of the disease on a community level is restricted to one of the agency's geographic regions, in this case North America.
“We have new cases. Most of them are imported cases from travellers, returning travellers or close contact of these people,” Ms. Briand told reporters at the daily WHO briefing in Geneva.
Meanwhile, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan told a gathering of Asian health ministers to remain vigilant in monitoring avian flu, H5N1 influenza, in an address to a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Bangkok today. She noted that the virus is widespread in poultry in parts of the region and the agency does not know how the infection will behave if spread to other regions.
Paying tribute to the region's leaders for monitoring the virus and largely keeping it under control for five years, Ms. Chan stressed that the world is “better prepared for an influenza pandemic than at any time in history.”
Ms. Chan noted that avian flu has “conditioned the public to equate an influenza pandemic with very severe disease and high mortality.” She explained that such a disease pattern is not inevitable during a pandemic. “On the contrary, it is exceptional.”