The World Health Organization said today that the outbreak of the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, has reached its highest pandemic level, but it said that it was not recommending travel restrictions or border closures.
With about 27,000 cases in more than 70 countries, the WHO said the virus had spread to enough countries to be declared a global pandemic, according to a statement by WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan.
Raising the alert to level 6, the highest, does not mean the virus is more deadly, only that it has continued to spread. The "overwhelming majority" of infected people have experienced mild symptoms, with a rapid and full recovery, she said. But, she also added that the strain of flu was new and needed to be closely monitored.
In the U.S., there have been more than 13,000 cases and 27 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"No previous pandemic has been detected so early or watched so closely, in real-time, right at the very beginning," Chan said in her statement, noting that "we have a head start" on treating the pandemic.
"WHO continues to recommend no restrictions on travel and no border closures," she added.
According to the Associated Press, the last pandemic, the Hong Kong flu of 1968, killed about 1 million people. Ordinary flu kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people each year; H1N1 has so far claimed 141 lives.
Read the complete statement to the press by Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, here.