World News

Experts to advise WHO on pandemic alert phase

GENEVA (Reuters) - International experts will convene on Tuesday to advise the World Health Organisation (WHO) whether to raise the current pandemic alert level due to the new flu virus in Mexico and the United States, a WHO spokesman said.

“We need more epidemiological evidence from Mexico before the experts would be in a position to advise on a pandemic change,” WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told Reuters on Sunday.

“An advisory body will recommend whether or not the director-general should up (raise) the phase. They are meeting again on Tuesday,” he said.

A new type of swine flu has killed up to 81 people in Mexico and infected around a dozen in the United States.

The current pandemic alert level is 3 on a scale of 1 (low risk of human cases) to 6 (efficient, sustained transmission between humans).

About 15 international experts held a teleconference on Saturday to advise WHO director-general Margaret Chan on measures to take to combat the outbreaks.

They stopped short of recommending a change in the pandemic alert level saying that more data was required on the virus, including its way of spreading among humans.

Chan on Saturday declared the outbreaks a “public health emergency of international concern,” which means that there is a risk of the new disease spreading to other countries.

Keiji Fukuda, WHO assistant director-general for health, security and the environment, will give a news briefing on Sunday at 4:00 p.m. British time (1500GMT), the spokesman said.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Richard Williams