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WHO Met Global Public Health Officials on Flu Alert

By Nathan Gill
     June 11 (Bloomberg) -- The World Health Organization spoke with authorities in Australia, Chile, Japan, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S. yesterday to prepare for a “probable change” in the agency’s pandemic alert scale to the highest level, Chile’s health ministry said.
     The WHO sought information on the clinical protocols and measures those countries are taking to treat infections of swine flu, known as H1N1, before the alert is raised to level 6 from 5, Chile’s Health Minister Alvaro Erazo said in a statement on the ministry’s Web site.
     The Geneva-based agency will declare the first flu pandemic in 41 years sometime in the next 10 days, three people familiar with the WHO’s plans said June 2. The United Nations’ health agency is using the time before the announcement to help member states prepare, the people said.
     Chile, the country with the most infections outside North America, had 1,694 cases of swine flu as of June 9, up from 890 reported on June 5, the ministry said. Two people have died from the disease in the country, where the number of cases has jumped fourfold since the weekend as officials began including cases reported by private clinics.
     Erazo said the Chilean government supports whatever decision the WHO takes regarding changes in its alert level.

     The WHO will assess its pandemic alert today, Australia’s Health Minister Nicola Roxon said in Melbourne. Japan’s health ministry officials held a telephone discussion on swine flu with the agency last night, said Hidefumi Miyoshi, a ministry spokesman in Tokyo.

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