WHO Declares Swine Flu Pandemic
H1N1 has spread to 74 countries, but may be milder than first thought
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 11, 2009 10:20 AM CDT
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon listens to Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO, during a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, May 19, 2009.   (AP Photo/Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi)
camera-icon View 4 more images

(Newser) – The World Health Organization has declared the first influenza pandemic since 1968, Reuters reports. Although the current outbreak has caused mostly mild cases of the illness, today's official declaration that the outbreak has hit phase 6, the highest level, means heightened prevention measures in 193 countries. The designation refers to the geographical spread of the disease, not the severity.

"Pandemic means global, but it doesn't have any connotation of severity or mildness," said one WHO official. "This event is really a moderate event for the time being, because the numbers are high but the disease is overwhelmingly mild." To date, 27,737 people have been infected with swine flu in 74 countries, but only 141 have died, mostly in Mexico.