WHO official says world moving closer to Phase 6 flu

GENEVA, June 2 (Reuters) - The continued spread of H1N1 flu in Britain, Spain, Japan, Chile and Australia has moved the world closer to the top pandemic alert, a senior World Health Organisation official said on Tuesday.

"There are a number of countries that appear to be in transition, moving from travel-related cases to more established community types of spread," Keiji Fukuda, acting WHO assistant director-general, told journalists on a teleconference.

"They are in transition and are not quite there yet, which is why we are not in Phase 6 yet," Fukuda said. The WHO's alert level is currently at 5, meaning a pandemic is "imminent".

According to the WHO's latest figures, the new influenza strain known as swine flu has been found in 64 countries, and remains most prevalent in North America. WHO labs have confirmed nearly 19,000 infections including 117 people who have died. (Reporting by Laura MacInnis, Stephanie Nebehay and Jonathan Lynn)