Alert Level is One Notch Below Pandemic

Countries encouraged to activate pandemic preparedness plans.

Published on: Apr 30, 2009

The World Health Organization has raised its pandemic alert for the H1N1 virus to five. That's the second highest level. Level five would indicate that the WHO believes that a global outbreak of the disease is imminent.

WHO Director General Margaret Chan says all countries should immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans. She says it really is all of humanity that is under threat in a pandemic.

Another problem that continues to crop up is what to call the current virus that is spreading like wildfire. The World Animal Health Organization was first to point out that the current influenza outbreak is not swine flu. This flu, with the nomenclature H1N1, contains several elements of which only one is swine. So far, the nation's swine heard has not been infected. Humans have been infected and researchers believe it is passed from human to human.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says let's call it what it is. H1N1. So far, H1N1 has shown no link to hogs. Agricultural organizations are beginning to taking the Secretary's lead. The National Pork Board is now calling the influenza outbreak the H1N1 flu, aligning with the Department of Agriculture and other government agencies that begun referring to the virus by its viral strain.

President Obama has requested $1.5 billion in supplemental fiscal 2009 funds to help fight the H1N1 virus and prepare for a possible bigger epidemic. Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee that funds vaccine preparedness. In light of the first confirmed death from the H1N1 virus, Harkin said, he wants to reassure the public that they are doing everything they can to respond.

"I look forward to working with the President to see that sufficient funds are included to not only address this outbreak, but to prepare for future outbreaks," Harkin said.