The story

The World Health Organization raised the swine flu alert Thursday to its highest level, saying the H1N1 virus has spread to enough countries to be considered a global pandemic.

Increasing the alert to Phase 6 does not mean that the disease is deadlier or more dangerous than before, just that it has spread to more countries, the WHO said.

"This is an important and challenging day for all of us," WHO Director General Margaret Chan said in a briefing with reporters. "We are moving into the early days of the first flu pandemic of the 21st century." Read full article »

CNN's David S. Martin, Roya Shadravan in Hong Kong, and Michal Zippori in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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