WHO rethinks criteria for Phase 6 pandemic flu

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Health Organization has changed its view on the criteria for raising its global flu alert, saying on Friday that it needed to see signs of severe effects before declaring a Phase 6 pandemic is underway.

“What we are looking for and what we will be looking for is something, events which signify a really substantial increase in risk of harm to people,” Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s acting assistant director-general, told a news briefing.

The WHO previously said its six-point scale reflected only the way a virus is spreading, not is severity. Fukuda said the U.N. agency was now seeking signals that “the risks for people have significantly gone up” before moving the alert from the current Phase 5.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Katie Reid and Laura MacInnis