Governments must prepare for a swift response to the global spread of swine flu as it is expected to speed up in the next few months, the World Health Organisation has said.

WHO’s Western Pacific director Shin Young-soo warned countries to be prepared for an “explosion” of swine flu cases, which he said could double every three to four days for several months.

International attention is now on the southern hemisphere countries that are currently in the midst of their winter flu seasons, to see how the pandemic, which killed nearly 1,800 people worldwide last week, will develop.

“We only have a short time period to reach the state of preparedness deemed necessary,” Mr Shin said. “Communities must be aware before a pandemic strikes as to what they can do to reduce the spread of the virus, and how to obtain early treatment of severe cases.”

Mr Shin said developing countries that do not have the funds or the equipment to deal with the virus will be the hardest hit by swine flu. He urged world leaders to educate the public and prepare health systems for severe cases to avoid unnecessary deaths.