The World Health Organisation has warned that “all of humanity is under threat” from a potential swine flu pandemic and called for “global solidarity” to combat the virus.
The plea came as the WHO raised the swine flu threat awareness level to 5 out of 6, indicating that the world is on the brink of a pandemic.
Holland and Switzerland both confirmed their first cases of swine flu on Thursday, bringing the total number of countries affected around the world to 11.
In Mexico there have been eight confirmed deaths from the virus, with another 160 suspected swine flu fatalities.
There have been 93 confirmed cases in the US, 19 in Canada, 13 in New Zealand, five in Britain, four in Germany, 10 in Spain, two in Israel, and one in Austria.
The US has confirmed the first death outside of Mexico on Wednesday.
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Dr Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general, urged all countries to activate their pandemic plans as she made the announcement on Wednesday night.
Phase 5 indicates that there is evidence of the virus being spread from human-to-human in at least two countries in one WHO region. Phase 6, the pandemic phase, is characterised by increased and sustained transmission in the general population.
Dr Chan said that the world was better prepared for an influenza pandemic than at any time in history.
However, she warned that the threat “must be taken seriously” due to the ability of the swine flu swine flu virus to spread rapidly across the world.
Dr Chan said that raising the phase of alert was a signal to governments, health officials and the pharmaceutical industry to take urgent action in readiness to tackle a pandemic.