The H1N1 Flu Virus

Assessing implementation of community-based strategies aimed at mitigating potential impact on the healthcare system and society as whole;

Working with national professional organizations and non-government organizations to optimize and monitor essential health-related resources such as: medical supplies, antivirals, vaccines, sanitizers and antibiotics; health care worker availability, hospital occupancy/availability, and use of alternative health facilities.

International Actions

Q1. The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the pandemic alert level to Phase Six. What are these phases?

WHO currently identifies six stages of Pandemic Preparedness and Response.

Phase 1: Influenza viruses are circulating in animals, especially birds. No reports of animal viruses infecting humans.

Phase 2: Human infection by an animal influenza virus. Potential pandemic threat. Phase 3: An animal or animal-human influenza virus has caused limited disease in people. Isolated human to human transmission may occur – but not widespread.

Phase 4: Verified human to human transmission of an animal or human-animal virus causing widespread or “community-level” outbreaks. Risk of pandemic is considered much higher but not a foregone conclusion.

Phase 5: Human to human spread of the virus is confirmed in at least two countries in one WHO region. It is likely that a pandemic is imminent. Time to finalize organization, communication, and implementation of planned mitigation strategies is short.

Phase 6: The Pandemic Phase. Community outbreaks in at least one country from a second WHO region – indicating that a global pandemic is underway. The Director-General of the WHO makes the decision about an elevation of pandemic phases based on reports from countries of the impact of disease.

Q2. The WHO has indicated that the overall level of severity of the pandemic to be moderate. What does this mean?

At this time, the WHO considers the overall severity of the pandemic to be moderate. This assessment is based on the clinical and epidemiological information available to WHO to date, as well as input from its Member States on the pandemic’s impact on their health systems and more generally on their social and economic functioning. Essentially, this assessment reflects that: The overwhelming majority of patients experience mild symptoms and make a rapid and full recovery without the need for hospitalization or medical care. Overall, national levels of clinically severe or fatal cases of respiratory illness appear similar to levels seen during local seasonal influenza periods– although in some local areas and institutions, high levels of disease have occurred. Overall, hospitals and health care systems in most countries generally have been able to cope with the numbers of people seeking care — although in some localities, some facilities and systems have been stressed.

Q3. What other recommendations is the WHO making related to Phase Six?

The WHO is also recommending:

No border closure. It will not be possible to stop the virus at the border, at ports or at airports. There is no evidence that these measures stop the spread of the disease, and they may be very disruptive for international traffic and trade.

No restriction of travel. People who are infected with the virus and are capable of infecting others, may not show symptoms when travelling, so they cannot be identified from others who are not infected.