WHO officials say cases continue to climb, but geographic spread not wide enough for highest alert
SUNDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- Although the number of swine flu cases continued to climb Sunday, the World Health Organization said there is no clear sign yet that the scope of the outbreak has reached pandemic proportions.
That doesn't mean it won't, however.
"At the present time, I would still propose that a pandemic is imminent because we are seeing transmission to other countries," Dr. Michael J. Ryan, director of the World Health Organization (WHO) global alert and response team, said in a teleconference from Geneva on Sunday. "We have to expect that Phase 6 will be reached. We have to hope that it is not."
As of Sunday morning, the WHO Web site was reporting 787 confirmed cases of swine flu in 17 countries. Mexico has reported 506 cases, with 19 deaths, while the United States has confirmed 160 cases in 21 states.
Currently, the outbreak is gauged a Level 5, meaning the disease is spreading throughout communities in at least two countries in one of WHO's six regions, in this case the United States and Mexico. To reach Phase 6, the geographic spread of the disease would have to occur in at least one other country in another region.
In a strange twist on Saturday, swine flu was discovered for the first time in pigs. WHO officials reported on the organization's Web site that the virus had been detected in sick pigs on a farm in Alberta, Canada. Until now, it was not known whether the virus could infect pigs, even though its genetic makeup clearly points to its having originated in that animal. However, in this case a human appears to have infected the livestock, not the other way around, the WHO reported. A worker on the farm had traveled to Mexico, come back to Canada and fallen ill. The swine are now under quarantine. WHO officials stressed that the swine flu cannot be transmitted through t
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