HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Friday, June 12, 2009

Flu Pandemic

Yesterday, the World Health Organization declared a swine flu pandemic.  The New York Times reports,

The disease has reached 74 countries, and probably met the technical definition of a pandemic — or global spread — weeks ago. Nearly 30,000 cases have been reported, but disease experts think hundreds of thousands or millions of people have actually been infected.  So the agency made official what had become obvious: that the H1N1 virus is spreading quickly in different parts of the world, and its chief, Dr. Margaret Chan, said, “Further spread is considered inevitable.”

The announcement does not mean that the illness, which has been mild in most people, has become any worse. The term pandemic reflects only the geographic spread of a new disease, not its severity. Pandemics typically infect about a third of the world in a year or two, and sometimes strike in successive waves.

“Globally, we have good reason to believe that this pandemic, at least in its early days, will be of moderate severity,” said Dr. Chan, director general of the health agency. So far, 144 people have died from H1N1.

The decision to raise the pandemic alert from Phase 5 to Phase 6, its highest level, is meant to signal to countries to step up their efforts to deal with the disease.

Flu Wiki has great information/links on the pandemic.  Additionally, on Wednesday evening PBS' Newshour ran an interview with WHO chief Dr. Margaret Chan about the decision to declare a pandemic.

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