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GENEVA (Reuters) – Humanity may be witnessing an influenza pandemic unfold, the head of the World Health Organization said on Monday, as Japan reported a big jump in infections with the newly-discovered H1N1 virus.
Flu fears dominated the start of the WHO's annual congress in Geneva, where many of the 40 countries touched by the flu strain urged the United Nations agency to rethink its pandemic alert scale that is now at the second-highest notch.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the outbreak that began in North America and has stretched to Europe, Asia and South America needed to be tackled with seriousness even though its symptoms appear to be largely mild.
"For the first time in humanity, we are seeing, or we may be seeing, pandemic influenza evolving in front of our eyes," Chan told the World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva, where rich and poor governments discussed their drug, vaccine and other needs.