UNITED NATIONS - The World Health Organization Wednesday evening raised its swine flu alert to phase 5 on a scale of 6, saying influenza pandemics must be taken seriously. Director-General Margaret Chan said the action means all countries should activate their pandemic preparedness plans. Based on assessment of all available information, and following several expert consultations, I have decided to raise the current level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to phase 5, Chan said. Influenza pandemics must be taken seriously precisely because of their capacity to spread rapidly to every country in the world. Latest WHO figures indicate 148 confirmed cases of H1N1 flu in nine countries.