The World Health Organization raised its influenza alert level Wednesday signaling that it believes a global outbreak of the disease is imminent.

Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, made the decision to raise the alert level after reviewing the latest scientific evidence on the disease outbreak.

The disease is now confirmed or suspected in 159 deaths, and nearly 2,500 illnesses in Mexico.

"Influenza pandemics must be taken seriously precisely because of their capacity to spread rapidly to every country in the world," according to Chan. “New diseases by definition are poorly understood and influenza viruses are notorious for their rapid mutation and unpredictable behavior.”

"The good news is that we are better prepared for an influenza pandemic than anytime in our history," she added,

Phase 5 alert indicates sustained human-to-human spread in at least two countries. It also means that efforts to produce a vaccine will be increased.

While confirmed human cases of the influenza outbreak have been made in Mexico, the United States, Canada, Britain, Israel, New Zealand and Spain, fatalities have only been reported in Mexico and the U.S. According to reports, the U.S. fatality was a young Mexican child who had traveled with his family to Texas.

Source: Fox News