Subjects: Public health
With swine flu racing around the globe faster than a speeding bullet, the World Health Organization has just bumped its alert level to Phase 5 on a 6-point scale. That’s one notch below a flat-out pandemic.
Phase 5 means the virus is causing multiple, widespread outbreaks.
It is a call-to-arms to vaccine makers that it’s time to fire up the kilns, and serves notice that all countries should activate pandemic preparedness plans.
Earlier in the day, Senators queried Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security Secretary as to whether the US should close its border with Mexico, the country of origin for the H1N1 virus and the place where nearly all of the deaths have occurred. That has not happened yet.
“There is a lot we don’t yet know about this outbreak. But at the same time we have been preparing as if we are facing a true pandemic, even though we don’t know the ultimate scope of what will occur,” Napolitano said.
The Big O urged Americans to take precautions. “This is obviously a serious situation — serious enough to take the utmost precaution,” he said.
Earlier today, the first US death from the disease was reported. It was a toddler who had just crossed the Mexican border into Texas.
The total number of affected US citizens was believed to be approaching 100, in at least these states: New York, California, Texas, Maine, Kansas and Massachusetts, Indiana, Ohio, Arizona and Nevada.
Also today, cases were reported for the first time in Germany and Austria, the 4th and 5th countries in Western Europe to have turned positive. They join Italy, Spain and the UK.
“If the situation deteriorates further, it is inevitable that international travel will be materially dented as it was evident during the case of SARS,” Lim Hwee Hua, Singapore’s second minister for finance and transportation told the Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, agricultural groups are worried the outbreak will scare consumers from pork. They want the Feds to refer to the culprit by its scientific name, H1N1.