The World Health Organization Wednesday raised its swine flu pandemic alert to the second highest of its six levels. UW infection disease specialist Dennis Maki says a pandemic refers to a new strain of a virus that no one has a natural immunity to, meaning everyone is susceptible.
Dr. Maki predicts if rates continue at their current levels, 500 people may be infected worldwide by the end of the week.
If the data from Mexico is correct, he says swine flu may have a mortality rate 50 times greater than a seasonal flu virus and of the last flu plague of 1918.
Maki has been pleased so far with public health's response and oversight to swine flu but would like to see a vaccine developed immediately for every person in the US. He says it may be relatively easy, as seen in season flu prevention. However the challenge lies in the sheer number as it takes up to five months just to develop season flu vaccines which average about 100 million recipients. Unless a vaccine is developed, Maki fears millions may come down with swine flu when the flu season arrives in the fall.