Laura MacInnis and Stephanie Nebehay
June 2, 2009

The spread of H1N1 flu in Australia, Britain, Chile, Japan and Spain has nudged the world closer to a pandemic, the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday.

[efoods]The newly-discovered strain had caused more infections than seasonal influenza at the start of Chile’s flu season, raising concern about how it would spread in the southern hemisphere, according to Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s acting assistant director-general.

The virus has mainly affected people aged below 60 and caused 117 deaths worldwide, including some otherwise healthy people, he said. For now, the WHO’s pandemic scale remained at the second-highest level but the threshold may soon be crossed.

“Globally we believe that we are at Phase 5 but we are getting closer to Phase 6,” Fukuda told journalists. “The future impact of this infection has yet to unfold.”

He added: “It is probably fair to call the situation something like moderate right now. We do have some hesitation to call the situation mild.”

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