News of the WeekSwine Flu

After Delays, WHO Agrees: The 2009 Pandemic Has Begun

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Science  19 Jun 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5934, pp. 1496-1497
DOI: 10.1126/science.324_1496

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When World Health Organization (WHO) chief Margaret Chan declared last week that for the first time in more than 40 years the world is facing an influenza pandemic, she simply stated what everybody already knew. Many leading influenza scientists and public health experts say that the scientific criteria for phase 6—the highest level in WHO's pandemic alert system—had been satisfied for several weeks and that WHO postponed its decision unnecessarily. But WHO says that science wasn't the only factor and that the timing was carefully calibrated to ensure that countries were well-prepared to prevent overreaction.