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Global Response to a Pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO), established in 1948, is the United Nations specialized agency for health. WHO is governed by 193 Member States through the World Health Assembly.

The WHO has developed the WHO Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Plan to define its responsibility in the event of a world-wide pandemic.

The WHO networks with 115 National Influenza Centres in 84 countries that continuously monitor influenza activity worldwide and track the emergence of new strains of influenza around the world. Experts at WHO believe that the world is now closer to another influenza pandemic than at any time since 1968, when the last of the previous century's 3 pandemics occurred.

WHO is responsible for alerting the international community when it appears that the world is moving closer to a pandemic using a 6 phase pandemic alert system. The system informs the world of the seriousness of the threat and the need to launch progressively more intense preparedness activities. The designation of phases, including decisions on when to move from one phase to another, is made by the Director-General of WHO. Each phase of alert coincides with a series of recommended activities to be undertaken by WHO, the international community, governments, and industry.

WHO Pandemic Alert Phases

  1. No new influenza virus in circulation
  2. New influenza virus in animals, no human cases
  3. Human cases from animals, no human to human cases
  4. Small clusters of human to human cases, geographically confined
  5. Large clusters of human to human cases, geographically confined
  6. Pandemic, increasing and sustained spread in the general public

The world is presently in phase 3.

When the WHO declares a global pandemic, a network of governments and organizations will move swiftly to implement plans that will lessen the impact of the disease on populations around the globe. These plans for pandemic preparedness are in place now, right down to the local level.