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Highlights of comments on flu by WHO chief Chan

GENEVA, June 11 (Reuters) – The following are highlights of comments by World Health Organisation Director-General Dr Margaret Chan at a briefing on the influenza (A) H1N1 pandemic on Thursday.

— WHO is raising pandemic alert level to level 6.

“This means the world is moving into the early days of its first influenza pandemic in the 21st century.”

— Pandemic means geographical spread, not severity.

“We also want to make clear that the higher level of the pandemic does not necessarily mean we are going to see a more dangerous virus or see many more people falling severely ill or dying.”

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Global assessment of severity is pandemic is moderate, national picture may differ.

“The global level assessment is very different from national level assessments because it has to take intoaccount the vulnerability of a population in a specific country, and also the health system resilience.”

“The global versus national level severity assessment at times may create confusion for the general public.”

Governments must adjust their public health response to the pandemic to the development of the outbreak in their country.

— Some countries fear overreaction to the announcement, others ask what is the problem if it is mild.

“Again the balance between the overreaction or complacency is also another issue of great concern to the WHO.”

— Meeting with 8 countries on Wednesday where the situation is not clear led to conclusion that community transmission is wider than is being picked up by surveillance systems.

“Collectively, looking at that, we are satisfied that this virus is spreading to a number of countries and is not stoppable.”

— Information from southern hemisphere tallies with previous pandemics.

“We have seen now this new influenza H1N1 is actually crowding out the seasonal influenza virus. And this is a very typical feature of previous pandemics.

— WHO sticks by recommendation against travel restrictions.

“We do not recommend closure of borders. There should not be restriction of movement of people, goods and services. Those are important recommendations, they stand.

— Vaccine production for seasonal flu and H1N1 influenza.

“The southern hemisphere is already moving into their winter. They have completed seasonal influenza vaccine injections for those countries that have a policy for that.”

“The manufacturers are actually now making seasonal influenza vaccine for the northern hemisphere countries for next winter. They will be finishing that in about two weeks’ time, some may be faster and some may be a little later.”

“They have also received the seed virus for making the pandemic vaccine. So our recommendation is they need to finish the seasonal vaccine and then move over.” (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Writing by Jonathan Lynn)

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