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February 27, 2021

WHO declares first flu pandemic since 1968

Eleventh case of A H1N1 confirmed in Romania.

GENEVA – The World Health Organisation yesterday declared that the new H1N1 virus has caused the first influenza pandemic in more than 40 years, health sources quoted by Reuters said.

The move will trigger heightened health measures in the WHO’s 193 member states as authorities brace for the worldwide spread of the virus that has so far caused mainly mild illness. WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan was to hold a news conference on the outbreak at 1600 GMT. Flu experts advising Chan, who met earlier yesterday, recommended moving to the top phase 6 on the WHO’s six-point scale, the sources said. That would reflect the fact that the disease, widely known as swine flu, was spreading geographically, but not necessarily indicate how virulent it is. Romanian Health Minister Ion Bazac was scheduled to hold a news conference about the measure later yesterday evening. “Phase 6, if we call a phase 6, doesn’t mean anything concerning severity, it is concerning geographic spread … Pandemic means global, but it doesn’t have any connotation of severity or mildness,” WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said. “In fact, what we are seeing with this virus so far is overwhelmingly to date mild disease. So we would think that this event is really a moderate event for the time being, because the numbers are high but the disease is overwhelmingly mild,” he told Reuters Television before the talks.

David Heymann, a former top WHO official now chairing Britain’s Health Protection Agency, said that countries had tried to contain the virus through measures including school closures during the current phase 5. This has extended the precious time needed to prepare for a full-blown pandemic. As it spreads in humans, science cannot predict what course the virus will take, the disease it causes and the age groups infected, Heymann said. “The severity of that disease, the effectiveness of antiviral drugs and the stability of the virus must all be watched closely,” he added.

Widespread transmission of the virus in Victoria, Australia, signaling that it is entrenched in another region besides North America, was the trigger for moving to phase 6. Five people have been admitted to intensive care in Australia and more than 1,000 cases confirmed following widespread testing in the state. The strain, which emerged in April in Mexico and the United States, has spread widely in nations including Australia, Britain, Chile and Japan. Authorities in Germany have confirmed 27 cases of H1N1 at a school in the industrial Rhineland city of Duesseldorf, the most concentrated outbreak of the virus so far in Europe’s biggest economy. There have been 27,737 infections reported in 74 countries to date, including 141 deaths, according to the WHO’s latest tally of laboratory confirmed cases, but the real number of people with the disease is likely to run into at least hundreds of thousands, as mild cases may not have been detected.

Eleventh case of new flu in Romania

Authorities on Wednesday evening confirmed a new case of A H1N1 infection in Romania, the Ministry of Health announced yesterday. The patient is a 48-year-old man who returned from Canada on June 8. The man is currently hospitalized in the ‘Matei Bals’ Infectious Disease Institute and is in good health condition, according to the same source. Health authorities have already begun inquiries to identify all the people that came into contact with the man since he returned from Canada.

This is the eleventh case of A H1N1 in Romania after earlier on Wednesday, doctors identified the virus in a nine-year old who had also returned from Canada. The boy and the 48-year-old man arrived on different flights, authorities said. Doctors have already identified nine people that came into contact with the child since his arrival in Romania and are monitoring their health condition.

Meanwhile on Wednesday evening, a 24-year-old Spanish man who recently arrived to Bistrita Nasaud on a visit was hospitalized with fever and other symptoms related to the new flu. The young man was hospitalized in the local hospital’s infectious disease clinic and doctors were awaiting results of medical tests to see if the patient is infected with H1N1.

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