The WHO yesterday (June 11th) raised the worldwide alert on the swine flu outbreaks to level 6, the highest possible level. This upgrade in alert status is due to the fact that the H1N1 flu, which is now found in over 70 countries, has transitioned from travel-related spreading to community spreading, which is when secondary cases are rapidly spreading. This announcement has nothing to do with the severity of the virus, however, since the current alert gradations do not account for lethality (see my previous blog post). It is rather merely an acknowledgement that the virus is now spreading within the populations which it gained access to after being carried from one continent to another (level 5).
While there are new guidelines and procedures recommended by the WHO that accompanies this declaration, the situation does not become much different. Governmental health ministries from countries around the world have been bracing for larger scale outbreaks than have been seen in the previous few months. In the US, efforts are underway to produce an effective vaccine, although there are still questions as to whether the putative vaccine will be produced in quantities high enough to protect the entire population.