GENEVA, Switzerland, April 29 (UPI) -- The World Health Organization Wednesday raised its swine flu alert to phase 5, saying influenza pandemics must be taken seriously.
Director-General Margaret Chan said the action means all countries should activate their pandemic preparedness plans.
"Based on assessment of all available information, and following several expert consultations, I have decided to raise the current level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to phase 5," Chan said. "Influenza pandemics must be taken seriously precisely because of their capacity to spread rapidly to every country in the world."
Latest WHO figures indicate 148 confirmed cases of H1N1 flu in nine countries.
"The United States Government has reported 91 laboratory confirmed human cases, with one death. Mexico has reported 26 confirmed human cases of infection including seven deaths," WHO said in a statement on its Web site. "The following countries have reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths - Austria (1), Canada (13), Germany (3), Israel (2), New Zealand (3), Spain (4) and the United Kingdom (5)."
The outbreak in Mexico was suspected in 159 deaths and more than 2,500 illnesses by early Wednesday, CNN reported. Health officials in Mexico said seven deaths from the virus were confirmed.
In the United States, California, Indiana, Illinois, New York and Texas also reported additional cases not confirmed by the CDC.