The World Health Organization declared an influenza pandemic on Thursday and advised governments to prepare for a long-term battle against an unstoppable new flu virus.
The United Nations agency raised its pandemic flu alert to phase 6 on a six-point scale, indicating the first influenza pandemic since 1968 is under way.
“With today’s announcement, WHO moves from an emergency to a longer-term response. Based on past experience, this pandemic will be with us for some months, if not years, to come,” WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said in a letter to staff, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.
People aged 30-50, pregnant women or people suffering from chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes or obesity are at highest risk, Chan told a news conference.
Countries from Australia to Chile and the United States are reporting the new swine flu virus is “crowding out” seasonal flu, becoming the predominant influenza strain, she said.
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