May 5, 2009 / 8:03 AM / 10 years ago

WHO flu tally hits 1,124 in 21 countries

GENEVA, May 5 (Reuters) - The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday 1,124 cases of the H1N1 flu infection have been officially confirmed in 21 countries worldwide.

The tally includes 590 people confirmed as having the new disease in Mexico, 25 of whom died. The United States has reported 286 laboratory-confirmed cases including one death, it said.

The United States, Canada and Spain accounted for most of the increase from previous tallies issued on Monday. Portugal has joined the ranks of affected countries with one human infection recorded.

Flu infections without fatalities have been confirmed in the following countries: Austria (1), Britain (18), Canada (140), Hong Kong, China region (1), Costa Rica (1), Colombia (1), Denmark (1), El Salvador (2), France (4), Germany (8), Ireland (1), Israel (4), Italy (2), Netherlands (1), New Zealand (6), Portugal (1), South Korea (1), Spain (54) and Switzerland (1).

The Geneva-based agency’s toll reflects sophisticated tests carried out in its global network of laboratories and is considered scientifically secure, even though it lags behind national reports.

The WHO’s scientific committee will meet virtually on Tuesday to discuss the evolution of the H1N1 virus.

The United Nations agency is keeping a close eye on outbreaks outside North America as it tries to decide whether to declare a pandemic.

Keiji Fukuda, WHO acting assistant director general, said on Monday most of the people infected in Europe and Asia to date had been to Mexico — the outbreak epicentre — and had not caught the virus from the community-at-large.

It remains unclear when, or whether, the WHO will raise its pandemic alert to the top of its 6-point scale and activate emergency response plans to fight off the new virus known popularly as "swine flu".

Last week the WHO raised its pandemic alert level from 3 to 4 and then to 5 in recognition of the transmission of the virus in Mexico and among communities in the United States and Canada. Phase 5 signals that a pandemic is "imminent." (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Robert Woodward)

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