WHO: Swine flu pandemic has begun, first in 41 years - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

WHO: Swine flu pandemic has begun, first in 41 years

GENEVA. - Health experts have been warning about the likelihood of another global flu pandemic for years. Now, it's reality.

The World Health Organization has declared a swine flu pandemic as infections climb in the United States, Europe, Australia, South America and elsewhere. It's the first global flu epidemic in 41 years.

The long-awaited decision is scientific confirmation that a new flu virus has emerged and is quickly circling the globe. It will trigger drugmakers to speed up production of a swine flu vaccine and prompt governments to devote more money toward efforts to contain the virus.

WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan says countries already hit by swine flu should prepare for a "second wave" of cases.

As of Wednesday, WHO says 74 countries had reported nearly 27,737 cases of swine flu, including 141 deaths.

The agency stresses most cases are mild and require no treatment. There's fear that a rash of new infections could overwhelm hospitals and health authorities; especially in poorer countries.