April 24, 2009 / 8:07 PM / 10 years ago

WHO ready with antivirals to combat swine flu

* WHO ready with rapid containment measures including drugs

* Says health authorities in 2 countries are well equipped

* Sees no need to issue travel advisories at this point



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GENEVA, April 24 (Reuters) - The World Health Organisation (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 AG’s ROG.VX Tamiflu, known generically as oseltamivir, a pill that can both treat flu and prevent infection.

But 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 travellers 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," Bhatiasevi 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, but it would be up to Chan and the WHO whether to do so, she added.

Suspicions that the fatal outbreaks of flu in Mexico were not of the normal seasonal influenza arose because most cases were in healthy young adults, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said.

"Because these cases are not happening in the very old or the very young, which is normal with seasonal influenza, this is an unusual event and and a cause for heightened concern," Hartl said in an interview with Canadian broadcaster CBC. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Jonathan Lynn)

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