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. The United States has confirmed 226 cases in 30 states, according to statistics released Sunday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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.
However, the Associated Press reported that Mexico's health secretary said on Sunday that the swine flu epidemic in his country apparently is waning.
Jose Angel Cordova told a news conference that Mexico's swine flu death toll remained at 19, while the number of confirmed cases increased slightly, from 473 to 506.
"The evolution of the epidemic is now in its declining phase," Cordova said during the news conference.
U.S. health officials were also cautiously optimistic on Sunday.
"There are several encouraging signs," Dr. Anne
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