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WHO Raises Threat Level But Pandemic 'Not Inevitable'

Remember, kids, there is a middle ground between blind panic and a trip down the River Denial! Cases of swine flu were confirmed early today in Israe

Remember, kids, there is a middle ground between blind panic and a trip down the River Denial!

Cases of swine flu were confirmed early today in Israel and New Zealand, the first definitive proof that the dangerous new virus has spread to Asia.

The World Health Organization, which yesterday raised its pandemic threat level from 3 to 4, two levels below a full-scale pandemic, will not meet today to consider another increase, a spokesman said at a news conference.

While the agency said people should think carefully before traveling to or from areas known to be affected by the flu virus, spokesman Gregory Hartl said it considers formal travel restrictions and border closures ineffective because people who would be screened could be infected but not yet showing symptoms.

"Border controls don't work. Screening doesn't work," Hartl said, according to Reuters news service, describing the economically-damaging travel bans as basically pointless in public health terms.

He said "we are still at phase 4" in terms of threat level because officials do not yet "have incontrovertible evidence" that the virus spreads easily from human to human. Yesterday was the first time the international body had elevated its official estimation of the threat of an influenza pandemic up from level 3, using a system that was revised in the wake of the 2003 SARS outbreak.

"A pandemic is not considered inevitable at this time," said Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's assistant director general for health security and environment. "The situation is fluid, and the situation continues to evolve."

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