WASHINGTON -- The World Health Organization told its member nations it was declaring a swine flu pandemic Thursday.
The H1NI virus, or swine flu, may have dropped off your radar because there's been so little reporting on it lately.
But it's grown increasingly worse worldwide in recent weeks. Nearly 28,000 cases have been reported in 74 countries. The virus has killed 141 people.
It's spreading from person to person in areas as diverse as North America, Europe and Australia.
"We are in a situation which is really moving towards, more or less, a pandemic type situation," said Dr. Keiji Fukuda with WHO.
That meets the criteria for raising the threat level from Phase Five to Six -- which would be the highest threat level declared in 41 years.
"The pandemic really refers to the fact that we are seeing the geographic spread of a virus which is causing this disease," Fukuda said.
Drug companies continue racing to develop a vaccine. They're hoping to have one by October, the traditional start of the flu season in much of the northern hemisphere.
The fear now is that the usually-mild H1N1 will mutate into a much deadlier strain over the coming months.
Countries like China are still keeping their guard up. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin first suffered through Hurricane Katrina. Now the Chinese have put him into quarantine after someone else on his plane came down with H1N1.