The U.N. secretary-general says if and when the
world faces a severe influenza pandemic, the U.N. system is prepared. Ban
Ki-moon briefed members of the U.N. General Assembly in an informal session.
The U.N. chief cautioned that a pandemic is possible, but if one is
declared it would be a statement about the geographic spread of the Influenza
A-H1N1 virus, not its severity.
"Fortunately, the world is better
prepared than ever to deal with a pandemic," he said.
He said he is
convening a meeting in Geneva in two weeks that would bring together donors and
the private sector to explore how both sides could contribute to a collective
Ban: clear communication is essential
secretary-general said the livelihoods and well-being of millions of people are
at stake, and it is essential that leaders communicate clearly about what is
known, and what to do, about a possible pandemic.
"That means calling the
outbreak by its proper name - Influenza A-H1N1," Ban noted. "Swine flu has been
a misleading and damaging misnomer, as there has been no evidence that cases are
occurring as a result of contact with pigs or pork."
overreactions that will not help contain the spread of the virus, but which will
hurt economies and societies should be avoided. He said those include
unnecessary travel restrictions and the banning of certain goods.
More than 1,000 confirmed cases
World Health Organization Director-General
Margaret Chan spoke to the General Assembly via a video link from Geneva. She
said there are more than 1,000 laboratory confirmed cases in 20 countries, but
the virus has not reached pandemic levels yet.
Dr. Chan said the
influenza pandemic alert level remains at phase 5, which means there must be a
high level of vigilance and continued monitoring of the further spread of the
"We do not know how long we will have until we move to phase 6,"
Dr. Chan said. "Phase 6 indicates that we are in pandemic. We are not there yet.
The criteria will be met when we see in another region outside North America
showing very clear evidence of community level transmission."
with pharmaceutical industry
Dr. Chan said no one can predict how the
situation will evolve or whether the world will enter a pandemic.
said she is working with the international pharmaceutical industry to secure
access to affordable drugs and pandemic vaccine should it be required. She is
paying particular attention to the needs of developing countries, and said she
has begun dispatching the World Health Organization's current stockpile of
anti-viral drugs to 70 mostly developing countries.