Influenza A(H1N1) in the WHO European Region: No time for complacency (WHO)
Copenhagen, 15 May 2009 - As of 14 May, 33 countries worldwide had reported a total of 6497 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza A(H1N1) to WHO, including 60 deaths. As shown by the rising number of cases and affected countries, the virus continues to circulate. In the 53 countries in the WHO European Region, 229 confirmed cases have been reported; they have typically presented with mild illness and no deaths have occurred. So far, community transmission is not occurring in other regions of the world in the same way as in Mexico and the United States of America, so WHO maintains the current level of pandemic alert at phase 5.
In such circumstances and on the basis of the scientific information available, there is no need to close borders or restrict travel, or any reason to take economically or socially disruptive measures. Nevertheless, the H1N1 virus is now widespread. Although European countries are better prepared than for previous pandemics, the risks are real and this is no time for fatigue or complacency.
Maintaining surveillance and remaining alert during the coming weeks and months are essential. WHO advises countries in the European Region to concentrate on actions that minimize the impact of the virus' spread (such as ensuring supplies of antiviral drugs, and promoting protective measures such as social distancing and personal hygiene) and on preparing to provide the health care services that may be needed in the coming months.
At the global level, WHO is working to facilitate vaccine development and the mass production of antiviral drugs. It is providing guidance on action to reduce health consequences, to minimize the adverse effects of a pandemic and to better prepare individuals and families. The WHO Regional Office for Europe recommends that European countries expand their current efforts to include assessments of their immediate and medium-term needs and to plan for the provision of necessary resources for treatment and care, including equipment, drugs and personnel; increased surveillance; laboratory diagnostics; and communication with the public. WHO is deploying antiviral drugs from its stockpile to countries in the Region, with priority being given to those in most need, based on their manufacturing and procurement capacities. As necessary, other countries will be similarly supported.
"In recent years, WHO has worked closely with countries in the European Region to support their health system capacity and pandemic preparedness. Investments in health systems are now proving essential to respond to this and any other threats," says Dr Marc Danzon, WHO Regional Director for Europe. "Our attention is on supporting all countries to activate their plans, and working together to strengthen their response capacities."
Regular updates on the evolving situation are available at the web site of the WHO Regional Office for Europe (http://www.euro.who.int/influenza/ah1n1).
For more information, contact:
Technical Officer, Partnership and Communication
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Via Francesco Crispi, 10
I-00187 Rome, Italy
Tel.: +39 06 4877543; mobile: +39 388 6098878
Fax: +39 06 4877599
Press and Media Relations
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Scherfigsvej 8, DK-2100 Copenhagen =D8, Denmark
Tel.: +45 39 17 13 44
Fax: +45 39 17 18 80