Is It a Pandemic?
The World Health Organization appears to be toying with the notion of raising the alert level on the Swine Flu Outbreak to 6 -- at which point it will formally be known as a pandemic. Agence France Press reports that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that there were no "imminent" plans to raise the pandemic alert level to 6, but that “even if WHO does declare phase six -- a pandemic -- that would be a statement about the geographic spread of the virus, not its severity."
Given that the term "pandemic" can send people around the world into a panic -- CNN pointed out recently that pandemic sounds like combining "panic" and "epidemic" -- the international health agency is cautioning people not to assume catastrophe is at hand. A pandemic describes an outbreak that is spreading globally, but the term says little about its lethality. Early indications, at least, suggest that swine flu may not be more lethal than the regular flu -- which is cause for concern, but not for panic.
Cautioning against leaping to the wrong conclusion, WHO chief Margaret Chan said: “Level 6 does not mean...we are coming near to the end of the world.”
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