WHO raised the Pandemic alert level from Phase 5 to 6

June 11, 2009

WHO has just raised the alert to the maxim level of pandemia. Here the official communication:

The new Influenza A (H1N1) virus has continued to spread to many more counties and with increasing numbers of people affected. There is verified community spread in multiple locations. The phase change is not a signal that the virus has become more virulent but reflects wider geographic spread. WHO is monitoring the global course of the epidemic and the severity of illness which could change over time and also manifest itself differently in different locations and countries.

As a consequence of the continued spread of the virus it is possible that cases of Influenza A (H1N1) could occur among WHO staff and their families. We should not be unduly alarmed if this occurs, as to date, most cases of illness are mild and self limiting and do not require hospitalization.

However, we would like to remind you that the most effective way to reduce risk of infection is to practice effective personal hygiene. This includes washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth and nose for coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your sleeve and avoiding close contact with sick people. These measures will help keep people healthy and decrease the number of people around you from becoming ill.

Ø What are the signs and symptoms of infection?

Early signs of Influenza A(H1N1) are flu-like, including fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat and runny nose, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhoea.

Ø If you do become sick with flu-like symptoms, the recommendations made earlier for access to care remain valid at this stage, as there is no community transmission identified:

Stay at home, limit contact with others.

Staff residing in Switzerland: contact by telephone your own treating physician who will evaluate the situation and refer suspect cases to the appropriate health facility for laboratory investigation.

Patients suspected of Influenza A (H1N1) should be isolated at home pending the result of the test (24-48h) and avoid close contacts with others.

Patients with confirmed Influenza A (H1N1) can be treated at home if there is no complication. Isolation is recommended as well as surveillance of very close contacts. According to current Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and cantonal guidelines, only close contacts will be identified. These are defined as: “people living in the same home as the patient, who shared eating utensils and plates, hugged or kissed or cared for the patient one day before and up to 7 days after onset of symptoms”. They will be informed, receive prevention information on a case by case basis (daily fever monitoring for 7 days).

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