Mexico reported another 17 suspected deaths from swine flu overnight, as the World Health Organisation raised its pandemic threat level for the second time in a week.
That means the world is now on level five out of a possible six – or the brink of a pandemic – and all countries should begin preparations to deal with the situation. “Influenza pandemics must be taken seriously precisely because of their capacity to spread rapidly to every country in the world. On the positive side, the world is better prepared for an influenza pandemic than at any time in history.” said WHO Director General Margaret Chan. The European Commission has warned that there will be deaths from swine flu in Europe but the extent of mortality is unclear. A Mexican toddler being treated in Texas has become the first victim to die outside Mexico. But US President Barack Obama has said there is no need for panic and has rejected the possibility of closing the border with Mexico. Spain is the first European country to report a case in a person who had not been to Mexico, illustrating the danger of human-to-human transfer. However, most cases outside Mexico have had mild symptoms, with only a few needing hospital treatment. The WHO has also urged pharmaceutical companies who make anti-viral drugs to step up production and alerted governments to be ready to distribute stockpiles.