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WHO Publishes New Plan On How To Alert The World About Possible Flu Pandemics

“The [WHO] on Monday published a new plan on how to alert the world to possible flu pandemics, following harsh criticism of its handling of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009,” Agence France-Presse/GlobalPost reports (6/10). “Following recommendations by a review committee on Pandemic (H1N1) 2009, the new influenza guidance simplifies the pandemic phases structure, emphasizes the risk assessment and risk-based approach, and increases the flexibility of Member States to take actions,” according to Xinhua, which adds, “As for the differences from previous editions, the 2013 guidance applies the principles of all-hazards emergency risk management for health to pandemic influenza risk management, aligning more closely with the disaster risk management structures already in place in many countries” (6/10).

“In the previous system, a pandemic was declared when a virus caused community level outbreaks in at least two different WHO-defined regions, and in at least two countries in one WHO region,” AFP notes, adding, “The definition of a pandemic has now been simplified to a ‘period of global spread of human influenza caused by a new subtype,’ WHO said” (6/10). “Another significant change in the new guidance is seen in the global phases setting, which falls into four — interpandemic, alert, pandemic and transition — from the previous six phases,” Xinhua writes, noting, “It also highlights the need for appropriate and timely risk assessment for evidence-based decision-making at national, sub-national and local levels, the WHO underscored” (6/10).