Margaret Chan, director-general of the United Nations’ health agency, made the announcement in Geneva on Thursday after a meeting of experts. The move came as infections climbed in Europe, the United States, Australia, South America and elsewhere, and after Chan examined data this week from eight countries with large swine-flu outbreaks.
In developed nations, where efforts have been under way to try to create a vaccine and to increase stocks of Tamiflu — a drug that can treat symptoms of the virus – the pandemic declaration may not alter government policies in significant ways.
It was hoped, however, that the announcement could prompt poorer nations to develop better strategies to deal with the flu outbreak, including devoting more money to health services or imposing measures such as quarantines and school closures.
Swine flu was first recognised in Mexico in April and has since reached 74 countries, infected more than 27,700 people and contributed to more than 140 deaths. Most cases have been mild.
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