, GENEVA, Jun 5 – The World Health Organization said it would consult later on Friday with its emergency committee of flu experts, a body of scientists that could recommend the declaration of a swine flu pandemic.
The move came as the number of A(H1N1) influenza cases around the world soared to 21,940 in 69 countries, according to the latest figures on the WHO website.
"The emergency committee has been convened today from 2 to 3 pm (1200 GMT to 1300 GMT)," said WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib.
The agenda of the meeting was to discuss the "severity of H1N1 and also to review international health-related measures," Chaib said, adding that she did not know if the experts would recommend a pandemic be declared.
The WHO has so far held back from declaring a full-fledged swine flu pandemic after raising its six-grade alert level to five at the end of April, signalling that a pandemic was imminent.
A senior WHO official had said Tuesday that the world was "getting closer" to a swine flu pandemic as the virus shows early signs of spreading locally in countries outside the Americas.
"Globally we believe that we are at phase five but are getting closer to phase six," Keiji Fukuda, WHO assistant director-general, said then.
He cited Australia, Britain, Japan, Spain and Chile in particular as countries where the flu was showing early signs of local spreading.
Australia’s swine flu tally jumped by more than a third to nearly 900 on Thursday.