WHO: Highest alert level is likely

May 2, 2009 at 8:07 PM

GENEVA, Switzerland, May 2 (UPI) -- A top official of the World Health Organization said Saturday in Switzerland "we have to expect" the swine flu alert will reach its highest level, Phase 6.

The rate of growth of confirmed H1N1 infections has slowed, but the disease is nevertheless spreading, Michael Ryan, director of global alert and response, said in Geneva, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

"At the present time, I would still propose that a pandemic is imminent because we are seeing the disease spread," Ryan told reporters at a news conference. "At this point, we have to expect that Phase 6 will be reached; we have to hope that it is not reached."

WHO raised the alert to Phase 5 Wednesday. Phase 6 will be called when the agency observes evidence of sustained person-to-person transmission of H1N1 outside North America, the Times said. Ryan said that has not been the case so far, except for a few cases.

The international health group said Saturday the number of laboratory confirmed cases worldwide was 705 -- with 180 of those cases in the United States.

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