Public Health

Pandemic Flu Declaration, Coming At You

close up of H1N1

Psst, have you heard, boys? We're going to the big time /CDC hide caption

itoggle caption /CDC

Who would have thought the declaration of a flu pandemic would be an anticlimax?

But that's the way it feels as WHO gets ready to certify the first flu pandemic in 41 years. Most people expect Director-General Margaret Chan to make the announcement today after she teleconferences with a 20-member emergency committee.

She'll probably call the new H1N1 pandemic of 2009 "moderate." But she'll warn its impact on vulnerable populations can be severe. And she'll caution the new strain could get nastier as it circulates through millions of people over the next few months.

What does the formal declaration mean?

Probably it'll goose vaccine manufacturers... and assure them of a market. Beyond that, it doesn't alter much. Paradoxically, WHO officials hope some countries will ratchet down severe measures (i.e. quarantining mayors, killing swine) to keep the new flu virus out.

" With a pandemic declaration," one official says, "we're saying the virus is widespread and virtually unstoppable."



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