WHO announces Pandemic level 5
WHO website [edited]
Statement by WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan 29 Apr 2009;
Ladies and gentlemen,
Based on assessment of all available information, and following
several expert consultations, I have decided to raise the current
level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to phase 5.
Influenza pandemics must be taken seriously precisely because of
their capacity to spread rapidly to every country in the world.
On the positive side, the world is better prepared for an influenza
pandemic than at any time in history.
Preparedness measures undertaken because of the threat from H5N1
avian influenza were an investment, and we are now benefiting from
For the 1st time in history, we can track the evolution of a pandemic
I thank countries who are making the results of their investigations
publicly available. This helps us understand the disease.
I am impressed by the work being done by affected countries as they
deal with the current outbreaks.
I also want to thank the governments of the USA and Canada for their
support to WHO, and to Mexico.
Let me remind you, new diseases are, by definition, poorly
understood. Influenza viruses are notorious for their rapid mutation
and unpredictable behaviour.
WHO and health authorities in affected countries will not have all
the answers immediately, but we will get them.
WHO will be tracking the pandemic at the epidemiological, clinical,
and virological levels.
The results of these ongoing assessments will be issued as public
health advice, and made publicly available.
All countries should immediately activate their pandemic preparedness
plans. Countries should remain on high alert for unusual outbreaks of
influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia.
At this stage, effective and essential measures include heightened
surveillance, early detection and treatment of cases, and infection
control in all health facilities.
This change to a higher phase of alert is a signal to governments, to
ministries of health and other ministries, to the pharmaceutical
industry and the business community that certain actions should now
be undertaken with increased urgency, and at an accelerated pace.
I have reached out to donor countries, to UNITAID, to the GAVI
Alliance, the World Bank and others to mobilize resources.
I have reached out to companies manufacturing antiviral drugs to
assess capacity and all options for ramping up production.
I have also reached out to influenza vaccine manufacturers that can
contribute to the production of a pandemic vaccine.
The biggest question, right now, is this: how severe will the
pandemic be, especially now at the start?
It is possible that the full clinical spectrum of this disease goes
from mild illness to severe disease. We need to continue to monitor
the evolution of the situation to get the specific information and
data we need to answer this question.
From past experience, we also know that influenza may cause mild
disease in affluent countries, but more severe disease, with higher
mortality, in developing countries.
No matter what the situation is, the international community should
treat this as a window of opportunity to ramp up preparedness and
Above all, this is an opportunity for global solidarity as we look
for responses and solutions that benefit all countries, all of
humanity. After all, it really is all of humanity that is under
threat during a pandemic.
As I have said, we do not have all the answers right now, but we will get them.