The World Health Organization said Tuesday a spike in swine flu cases in Australia may push it to finally announce the first flu pandemic in 41 years. It also expressed concern about an unusual rise in severe illness from the disease in Canada.
WHO's flu chief Keiji Fukuda said the agency wanted to avoid "adverse effects" if it announces a global outbreak of swine flu. Fukuda said people might panic or that governments might take inappropriate actions if WHO declares a pandemic.
Some flu experts think the world already is in a pandemic and that WHO has caved in to country requests that a declaration be postponed.
"On the surface of it, I think we are in phase 6," or a pandemic, said Margaret Chan, WHO's director-general.