3 Jun 2009

World edging towards swine flu pandemic - WHO

6:46 pm on 3 June 2009

The world is getting closer to a swine flu pandemic as the virus continues to spread internationally, a senior World Health Organisation official says.

WHO assistant director-general Keiji Fukuda says a number of countries appear to be in transition, moving from travel-related cases to a more established, community-type spread.

Mr Fukuda says countries like Britain, Spain, Japan, Chile and Australia are showing larger numbers of infections.

"Globally we believe that we are at phase five but are getting closer to phase six," he says, referring to the agency's six-level pandemic alert system.

Phase five signals that a pandemic is imminent, while the world would be in a pandemic - marking global spread - at phase six.

Some 18,965 cases of infections, including 117 deaths, have been reported to the WHO by 64 countries around the world since the virus emerged in the United States and Mexico in April.

Australia's tally has soared to nearly 500 confirmed cases. There are 10 confirmed cases in New Zealand.