GENEVA The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday that it was prepared with rapid containment measures including antivirals if needed to combat the swine flu outbreaks in Mexico and the United States.
The Geneva-based agency has been stockpiling doses of Roche Holding's Tamiflu, known generically as oseltamivir, a pill that can both treat flu and prevent infection.
The new virus, not previously detected in pigs or humans, has proved sensitive to the drug, the WHO said in a statement.
The WHO and its regional office in Washington, D.C., are also sending experts to Mexico to help health authorities with disease surveillance, laboratory diagnosis and clinical management of cases.
Mexican health officials have reported more than 850 cases of pneumonia in the capital, Mexico City, including 59 who died. In San Luis Potosi, in central Mexico, 24 cases including 3 deaths have been detected.
They have also informed the WHO about a third suspected outbreak of swine flu in Mexicali, near the U.S. border, with four suspect cases and no deaths so far.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control have said there were 8 cases of swine influenza in California and Texas and no deaths.
Health authorities in the two North American countries have the resources required already in place, including Tamiflu, and are "well equipped," according to the WHO.
"WHO is prepared with rapid containment measures should it be necessary to be deployed," WHO spokeswoman Aphaluck Bhatiasevi told Reuters.
The United Nations agency saw no need at this point to issue travel advisories warning travelers not to go to parts of Mexico or the United States. "However, the situation may change depending on what the situation in the field is," she said.
The WHO will convene a meeting of its Emergency Committee on international health regulations, probably on Saturday afternoon, she added.
WHO director-general Margaret Chan was flying back to Geneva overnight from Washington, D.C., for the emergency discussions which would link public health authorities and experts in various parts of world in a virtual meeting, she said.
The emergency committee could make recommendations including whether to change the pandemic alert level, she added.
"Because there are human cases associated with an animal influenza virus, and because of the geographical spread of multiple community outbreaks, plus the somewhat unusual age groups affected, these events are of high concern," the WHO said in a statement.
(For the WHO statement go to:
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Jonathan Lynn)