A sharper version of this H1N1 distribution map is available at the WHO website.
The World Health Organization — as long expected — has declared a Phase 6 pandemic. It is a breaking story with plenty of coverage, including from the BBC, New York Times, and the WHO itself (a bit delayed).
UPDATE: At about 1:00 eastern Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, offered a public explanation of the Phase 6 Declaration. “This particular H1N1 strain has not circulated previously in humans. The virus is entirely new. The virus is contagious, spreading easily from one person to another, and from one country to another. As of today, nearly 30,000 confirmed cases have been reported in 74 countries. This is only part of the picture. With few exceptions, countries with large numbers of cases are those with good surveillance and testing procedures in place. Spread in several countries can no longer be traced to clearly-defined chains of human-to-human transmission. Further spread is considered inevitable.”
Within 60 minutes of Dr. Chan’s news conference, DHS and HHS released a joint statement from Secretaries Napolitano and Sebelius. “Today’s decision by the WHO was expected and doesn’t change what we have been doing here in the United States to prepare for and respond to this public health challenge. Once we saw how fast this virus was spreading, we activated our pandemic plans and started doing all the things we needed to do to keep the public as safe and secure as possible,” said Secretary Sebelius. “What this declaration does do is remind the world that flu viruses like H1N1 need to be taken seriously. Although we have not seen large numbers of severe cases in this country so far, things could possibly be very different in the fall, especially if things change in the Southern Hemisphere, and we need to start preparing now in order to be ready for a possible H1N1 immunization campaign starting in late September.”
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that, “full pandemic flu vaccine production will start in two weeks.”
Several media organizations clearly had stories pre-loaded for the long-delayed and long-expected announcement. As a result, most of the early reports are measured in tone. The most serious concern is focused on how the H1N1 virus might mutate during the Southern Hemisphere’s flu season that is just beginning. Early reports from Chile indicate that H1N1 is crowding out older versions of the seasonal flu.