WHO Chief Sees 'Pandemic Potential'

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 25, 2009 12:02 PM CDT
People wearing surgical masks ride the subway in Mexico City.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The World Health Organization believes the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico and the southwestern United States could grow into a pandemic, the Washington Post reports. “It has pandemic potential,” said WHO’s director-general. “It is infecting people.” Margaret Chan cautioned that the WHO is still collecting information and that it's too early to know "whether or not it will indeed cause a pandemic."

Chan has convened a WHO committee on viral threats that has not met since it was formed 2 years ago. “The situation is evolving quickly,” she said. “We do not yet have a complete picture of the epidemiology or the risk, including possible spread beyond the currently affected areas.” The WHO has dispatched a team to Mexico, where the flu has killed 68 and sickened more than 1,000. Another eight people got sick in the US.