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On Thursday, the World Health Organization decided to raise the swine flu alert level from phase 5 to phase 6, saying the criteria for an influenza pandemic have been met. KSMU’s Matt Evans spoke with a representative from the Springfield-Greene County Health Department about the implications this could have locally.
Phase 6 is the WHO’s highest level of its influenza pandemic alert. The swine flu of H1N1 was first spotted in Mexico in April and since has spread to 74 countries around the world.
Jaci McReynolds, the spokeswoman for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, says that it’s important to note that the WHO bases its standard on how widespread the illness is.
“In other words, the number of countries that have been impacted. Whereas, the United States the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bases their standard on the severity of the illness: which in this case we’ve seen in the United States to be fairly mild. So when you look at the comparisons you’re looking at two very different standards,” said McReynolds.
McReynolds also believes the declaration of a global pandemic will not have much impact on the local level. She urges the public to follow common sense precautions like good hand-washing and staying home if you’re sick.
McReynolds says the United States has been fortunate with this flu pandemic, but she also acknowledges the possibility of the flu spreading.
“Certainly, there is some potential for the virus to spread across the nation. So, it won’t be a surprise to us if we do actually see it come to Greene County,” said McReynolds.
The WHO says the further spread of swine flue is inevitable. According to the organization, out of the 27,000 confirmed cases of swine flu, only 141 have been fatal. For KSMU News, I’m Matt Evans.