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World “very very close” to swine flu pandemic: WHO

Melbourne, June 10 (ANI): The soaring rise in the swine flu cases in Australia has moved the world “very very close” to a pandemic, the World Health Organization has said.

So far, 1224 cases have been confirmed in Australia, out of which 1011 were reported in Victoria alone. Five new cases were reported overnight in Queensland.

Keiji Fukuda, WHO assistant director-general, said the world is “getting very, very close” to a pandemic, noting that there is now “a great deal of activity in Victoria at the community level”.

Australia is expected to raise its swine flu alert level after a meeting of nation’s chief health officers in Sydney today, reports.

As of now, the World Health Organization has left its six-level pandemic alert scale unchanged at phase five, signaling that a pandemic is “imminent”.

One key criterion for a move to the phase six alert is community spread in a country outside the first region in which the disease was initially reported, in this case, outside the America.

It will be the first time the WHO has announced a pandemic in 41 years.

Dr Fukuda added that the WHO is “working hard on preparing countries… on what a move to a pandemic would entail”.

There are now 26,563 influenza A (H1N1) cases worldwide, and 140 people have died from the virus.

In May, the WHO had sent three “seed viruses” to drug companies for use in making a vaccine against the new strain of influenza.

Dr Fukuda said the pharmaceutical industry should be ready to produce a preventive vaccine by the end of June or early July.

Mexico will host an international summit on swine flu at the Caribbean beach resort of Cancun in July.

Representatives from 40 countries, and the directors general of the WHO and the Pan American Health Organization will take part in the summit from July 1 to 3. (ANI)

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