WHO raises H1N1 to highest pandemic level


The H1N1 novel influenza outbreak was reclassified by the World Health Organization as phase six Thursday, which signals a global pandemic is under way.

WHO’s latest update reported almost 28,000 confirmed cases of H1N1, also called swine flu, in 74 countries worldwide, with 141 deaths. However, it was sudden spikes in confirmed cases in countries as far apart as Australia and Chile that prompted WHO’s concern.

The Minnesota Department of Health has identified 221 cases of H1N1 in Minnesota as of June 11 and 46 hospitalizations. The number of cases in the state has doubled in the last week, and an average of 30 cases per day have cropped up in the last three days. Most cases are not severe, however, with a majority being children and already hospitalized patients.

“The new WHO classification does not mean that illnesses cause by the virus are becoming more severe,” according a MDH press release. “It simply means that the virus is becoming more widespread throughout the world.”

The new influenza strain first appeared in April, and MDH will continue to track the growing number of cases in the state.

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