WHO revises scale for pandemic alerts

GENEVA Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:32pm EDT

Residents wait in line to buy packs of blue surgical face masks outside a pharmacy in Monterrey, northern Mexico April 27, 2009. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo

Residents wait in line to buy packs of blue surgical face masks outside a pharmacy in Monterrey, northern Mexico April 27, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Tomas Bravo

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GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Health Organization (WHO) revised on Monday its 6-point scale for pandemic alerts, saying that phase 5 would correspond to a strong signal that a pandemic is "imminent."

The revised scale was published ahead of a decision by an advisory body of experts on whether to raise the alert level from the current level of 3.

In a report posted on its website, the WHO said that under the new criteria:

* Phase 4 is characterized by human-to-human spread of a new virus able to cause community-level outbreaks

* Phase 5 is characterized by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one region

* Phase 6 is a global pandemic characterized by widespread outbreaks in more than one region.

"While most countries will not be affected at this stage, the declaration of phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short," it said.

(For more Reuters swine flu coverage, please click here:

here )

(For WHO information on swine flu, go to:

here )

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Jonathan Lynn)

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