By Martha Palmer & Kelley Wake
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported that the Swine flu virus has reached phase five on its six point infection scale. This is one stage away from becoming an epidemic, with the number of confirmed cases across the globe steadily on the increase.
The six point scale is separated into phases, with phase one to three being predominantly animal infections, phase four being sustained human diseases to human transmission, and phases five to six representing a pandemic with widespread human infection.
The majority of infected people are in Mexico with 397 cases and 22 deaths reported. The outbreak of swine flu, now known as the H1N1 virus, was first detected in Mexico City on 27 April. There are now at least 1003 confirmed cases, in 20 countries worldwide, with South Africa having one suspected case.
The flu is seriously affecting the Mexican economy, as major public areas were forced to close for a five day period in an attempt to prevent further spread of swine flu. The numbers of infections are declining and many people are being treated successfully around the world, but officials are keeping on high alert as the flu virus has the ability to mutate and become deadly very easily.