WHO declares first full-scale pandemic in 41 years

It's official. The World Health Organization declared a Phase 6 pandemic alert this morning--the first such warning since 1968. In raising the pandemic alert to its highest level, the WHO warned all its 194 member nations to prepare for the arrival of a new strain of H1N1.

But WHO's health experts spent a considerable amount of time and effort reassuring the globe that this is not the deadly viral outbreak that has worried governments for generations. And vaccine developers are already well on the way to developing new jabs that guard against the new flu.

"It's 24 hours a day," Dr. Giovanni Della Cioppa, head of Global Clinical Research & Development for Novartis Vaccines, tells FierceVaccines. "We are working to get this vaccine to the public as quickly as possible." 

WHO has been studying a Phase 6 alert for weeks as evidence grows that the swine flu virus has taken hold in countries around the world. In Australia, there have been 1,000 confirmed cases, offering considerable data that the virus has extended outside of North America.

"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 told Reuters.

- read the story from the Washington Post
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ALSO: Canada has created a network of 80 scientists from the country's research and health institutions to coordinate their work on a new vaccine for swine flu. Report