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H1N1 Pandemic Could Be Declared Over Soon, WHO’s Chan Says

The WHO’s decision to declare the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic officially over could come within weeks, according to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, the Canadian Press reports.

The WHO will make its decision based on the agency’s emergency committee’s recommendations, expected this week, as well as input from “the countries currently most affected by H1N1 activity,” such as New Zealand and India, the news service writes.

“All in all, people feel that the overall picture looks like we are ready to declare post-pandemic globally very soon,” Chan said. According to the newspaper, evidence of a reduction in the number and “intensity” of outbreaks, the “dominance” of the H1N1 virus, and “evidence of some population immunity” all suggested the outbreak was diminishing, according to Chan.

“Chan admits she’s eager to move to the post-pandemic phase so the agency can focus on analyzing what happened and incorporating the knowledge gained into plans for future pandemics,” the Canadian Press writes.

The article details some of the criticisms the WHO has faced in response to its handling of the pandemic and how the agency hopes the global public health gaps exposed by the H1N1 pandemic will serve to inform future plans for dealing with pandemics (Branswell, 8/8).

Speaking of the agency’s response to H1N1, Chan said, “We planned for the worst-case scenario. … If there’s something we can do better … I think we would advise people in pandemic preparedness planning in future [that] we should look at the best case scenario, the intermediate case scenario and the worst case scenario. … That would provide us flexibility to move up and down the scale,” according to the Globe and Mail.

The article includes comments by a Canadian health official, who “was one of the officials responsible for planning the response” to H1N1, according to the newspaper (Friesen, 8/8).

Since emerging in April 2009, the virus has claimed the lives of at least 18,500 people worldwide, according to the WHO, the Canadian Press reports (8/8).

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