Influenza A (H1N1): WHO announces pandemic alert phase 6, of moderate severity

Copenhagen, 11 June 2009

Today, based on assessment of all available information and following expert consultations, WHO raised the pandemic influenza A(H1N1) alert level from phase 5 to phase 6. WHO stresses that this is not a statement about the severity of the virus, but means there is clear evidence of community-level transmission in multiple countries in regions of the world outside the Americas, where the disease started in April this year.

At present, WHO assesses the severity of this pandemic to be moderate. It advises countries to adapt plans and interventions to the current moderate severity of the pandemic strain and to local conditions of severity and spread.

WHO recommends more emphasis on providing care and less on stopping the spread of the virus. Efforts should focus on monitoring the pandemic and helping countries to understand its evolution, exchanging information about the virus with other stakeholders and following developments in scientific and clinical issues. As pandemics can have a range of effects on health and society, governments will have to mobilize their resources to care for those who fall ill and to provide guidance so that people can protect themselves and their families.

WHO does not advise border closures or any restriction of travel, as there is no evidence that these measures stop the spread of the disease. They may, however, seriously disrupt international traffic and trade.

Currently much about the pandemic is unknown, because the disease is new. Based on historical patterns, the severity of pandemics can change over time, and differ by location or population, and pandemics can last for years. Moreover, the pathogenicity of the virus may change in the future. WHO will therefore closely monitor the pandemic as it evolves.

"WHO has two strong tools for maintaining good pandemic surveillance: the network of National Focal Points for the International Health Regulations and the regional surveillance network for seasonal influenza. We have invested a lot of effort and resources in building them up, so now we are better prepared," says Dr Nata Menabde, Deputy Regional Director, WHO Regional Office for Europe. "At present, our work is focused on helping Member States to strengthen their health systems to tackle the pandemic. Emergency laboratory supplies are being shipped to countries in need. Training for staff involved in pandemic preparedness is being organized. We are preparing several meetings for groups of countries with similar challenges in pandemic preparedness at the end of this summer, to help them get ready for the next flu season. In addition, a tool specifically designed for hospital pandemic preparedness is being developed. And, of course, our experts are on call 24/7 to provide advice and guidance."

As of 06:00 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) on 10 June 2009, 74 countries worldwide had reported over 27 000 cases of influenza A(H1N1), including 141 deaths. A total of 30 of the 53 countries in the WHO European Region had reported 1572 cases of influenza A(H1N1) as of 06:30 GMT on 11 June 2009.

A range of WHO guidance and recommendations for public health authorities, communities, families and individuals is available on the web sites of the WHO Regional Office for Europe and WHO headquarters.

For more information, contact:

Technical information:

Dr David Mercer
Technical Officer, Communicable Diseases
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Scherfigsvej 8, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
Tel.: + +45 39 17 14 67
Fax: +45 39 17 18 69

Press information:

Ms Liuba Negru
Press and Media Relations Officer
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Scherfigsvej 8, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
Tel.: +45 39 17 13 44
Mobile: +45 20 45 92 74