H1N1 virus at global pandemic phase 6

As the BBC reports, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has upgraded the swine flu (H1N1) virus alert status to global flu pandemic phase 6 – full statement here. But, as the WHO official figures show, the fatality rate remains low. BBC medical corrrespondent Fergus Walsh gives his thoughts.

People will want to know when they are likely to be exposed to H1N1. That’s impossible to say with any accuracy, but the summer months may suppress the virus somewhat in Britain, and it may be the late autumn or beyond before we see a full-scale epidemic in every community.

The government’s pandemic plans suggest that perhaps a third of the population could get infected, causing huge rates of absenteeism from work, and extra pressure on the health service. There is concern that the virus might mutate in the southern hemisphere over its winter and become more virulent, but there’s no sign of that yet.