On Thursday, WHO said 74 countries have now reported 28,774 cases of swine flu, including 144 deaths, the AP reported.
U.S. health officials on Thursday were not surprised by the pandemic announcement. "It's based on the data," CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said during an afternoon press conference.
But, he added, "this does not mean there is any difference in the severity of the flu. There has been no change in the virus."
"Here in the United States, we have been responding as if it were a pandemic already," Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, added.
What the pandemic declaration means, she said, is that "for countries that were not seeing the flu we have seen here, they need to dust off their pandemic plans."
In a separate statement in response to the WHO announcement, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, "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."
And U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano added, "This decision comes as no surprise. We acted aggressively to stay ahead of the virus as it spread across the country. Now our challenge is to prepare for a possible return in the fall."
"The Obama Administration has been working together across the government, and will continue to do so over the weeks and months ahead to keep the American people safe," she said.
According to WHO statistics,
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