GENEVA, Switzerland -- The World Health Organization said Saturday that although it is still preparing for a pandemic, the rise of confirmed cases of swine flu to 615 was largely because of confirmation of suspected cases in Mexico.
"I would still propose that a pandemic is imminent because we're seeing the disease spread to other countries. We have not seen yet that sustained transmission outside one WHO region," said Dr. Michael J Ryan, the WHO's director of its global alert and response team.
"At this point we expect that phase 6 will be reached; we have to hope that it is not reached," he said.
"Pandemics are serious," he said, but it is important to note they describe "the geographic spread of the disease, not its severity."
The WHO reported 615 confirmed cases of swine flu, also known as 2009 H1N1, in 15 countries.
Most of the cases have been confirmed in Mexico,with 397 infected people, and 16 deaths attributed to the virus, WHO said.
Its increase in confirmed cases is from "ongoing testing of previously collected samples and not a surge of people falling sick," Ryan said.
Mexico's health minister said Saturday that his nation's total had reached 443, although that number was not reflected in the WHO's total. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also confirmed on Saturday a higher total of confirmed cases, 160, up from Friday's total of 141.
Ryan said other countries, including France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and Israel, also had other confirmed cases that would be included in a updated WHO total later Saturday.
The health agency noted that the sharp increase in confirmed cases in Mexico represented testing on backlogged specimens.
"What the increase reflects is that we are moving forward in confirming many of the cases that have been left untested for some time, so in an way that's reassuring," said WHO spokesman Paul Garwood.
"We know that these cases are being dealt with, these specimens are being looked at and assessed, and we're getting more and more info about this virus.
"So we haven't seen, say, a spike in new cases or new influenza cases appearing in Mexico City, for example," Garwood continued. "It's just the fact that this reporting backlog is bearing fruit and we're seeing the results of that."
The latest developments come as parts of Asia discovered they were not immune to the spread of the virus.
Hundreds of guests and staff were under quarantine in China on Saturday after health officials determined that a hotel guest had contracted the H1N1 virus.
Nearly 200 hotel guests and 100 staff members were ordered to stay in Metro Park Hotel in Hong Kong for seven days to stop the spread of the H1N1 virus, a government spokesman said. Read more about quarantined hotel guests
The quarantine was ordered after a 25-year-old Mexican man stayed in the hotel and became sick, according to the spokesman. It is the first confirmed case of the virus in Hong Kong, local medical officials said.
Source : CNN News