WHO Declares End Of H1N1 Pandemic

“World Health Organisation Director-General Margaret Chan announced Tuesday the end of the [H1N1] swine flu pandemic, more than a year after it was declared,” Agence France-Presse reports. “The world is no longer in phase 6 of influenza pandemic alert. We are now moving into the post-pandemic period,” Chan said during a virtual press conference from Hong Kong, according to a WHO press release (8/10).

“The new H1N1 virus has largely run its course,” Chan said in the press release. “As we enter the post-pandemic period, this does not mean that the H1N1 virus has gone away. Based on experience with past pandemics, we expect the H1N1 virus to take on the behaviour of a seasonal influenza virus and continue to circulate for some years to come” (8/10).

Chan noted that stockpiled H1N1 flu vaccines remain effective and advised that such vaccines continue to be administered to high-risk groups, Reuters reports (Nebehay/Lynn, 8/10). Additional recommendations on how health authorities should respond to the post-pandemic period were issued by the WHO on Tuesday and are available here (8/10).

The WHO announcement followed a teleconference meeting of the agency’s emergency committee, the Postmedia News/Vancouver Sun reports (Kirkey, 8/10). “After extensive discussions, the committee unanimously advised the director-general that the world was no longer experiencing an influenza pandemic, but that some countries continue to experience significant H1N1 (2009) epidemics. Members agreed that waiting for winter data from the southern hemisphere had been necessary in order to make such a global assessment with reasonable confidence,” Chan said, according to a second statement issued by the WHO.

“The Committee noted that the information from India, New Zealand and the Pacific Island countries was consistent with the expectation that individual countries might experience significant levels of influenza associated with the H1N1 (2009) virus in the future, and expressed the need for national authorities to continue to implement outbreak response measures in those countries when such events occur,” she added (8/10).

“Last week, the U.N. health agency said at least 18,449 people had died worldwide since the outbreak began in April 2009,” CBC News reports (8/10).

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