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PAHO Director Urges Close Monitoring of New H1N1 Influenza Virus

Addressing a special session of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Mirta Roses, said that much more information is needed to gauge the threat presented by the new H1N1 influenza virus. Nevertheless, she said, the countries of the Americas are better prepared today than in the past.

Recent readiness efforts mean countries are better prepared to respond

Washington, D.C., May 1, 2009 (PAHO) – Addressing a special session of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Mirta Roses, said that much more information is needed to gauge the threat presented by the new H1N1 influenza virus. Nevertheless, she said, the countries of the Americas are better prepared today than in the past.

"First we have to recognize that we are facing a new influenza virus. We know that it can infect humans and it has the capacity for human-to-human transmission. We have to monitor it and closely follow its evolution," she said.  

"The important thing is to keep up the efforts of the countries, WHO and PAHO, to gather information that will allow us to better understand this virus."

Roses described some of the efforts carried out in recent years to improve countries' preparedness for potential health emergencies, including simulation exercises in response and mitigation, as a result of concerns about the threat of H5N1 avian influenza.

"Today the countries of our region are much better prepared than they were five years ago, although there are differences among countries," she said. "Our countries are on high alert to immediately report possible cases."

Roses also said that a vaccine against the new H1N1 influenza virus could be available within seven months. But she noted that there are existing antiviral drugs that are effective against the virus and that PAHO is in contact with manufacturers to ensure access to the drugs for its member countries.

"Fortunately, this virus is sensitive to medication that is currently available," she said.

PAHO has mobilized 27 international experts to Mexico at that country's request. It has also activated its Emergency Operations Center, which operates 24 hours a day, and is in constant contact with the ministries of health of all PAHO Member States.

PAHO, founded in 1902, works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).
 

For more information please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Information Officer, Knowledge Management and Communication, tel (202) 974-3459, fax (202) 974-3143, or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Public Information Officer, Knowledge Management and Communication, tel (202) 974-3122, fax (202) 974-3143.

 

 
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