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WHO raises H1N1 alert to highest level

GENEVA (AP) - The World Health Organization tells members it's raising the swine flu alert to highest level.

It's the first flu pandemic in 41 years as infections climbed in the United States, Europe, Australia, South America and elsewhere.

Phase 6 is WHO's highest alert level and means that a swine flu pandemic is under way. The last pandemic - the Hong Kong flu of 1968 - killed about 1 million people. Ordinary flu kills about 250,000 to 500,000 people each year.

The long-awaited pandemic announcement is scientific confirmation that a new flu virus has emerged and is quickly circling the globe. It will trigger drug makers to speed up production of a swine flu vaccine and prompt governments to devote more money to containing the virus.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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