WHO declares swine flu pandemic is over

Aug 10th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Featured

After petering out in Europe and the United States before their winter flu season was over, in recent months swine flu has affected parts of South Asia and “limited areas” of tropical South and Central America, as well as Africa for their second season.

But unlike 2009, when A(H1N1) ousted most other types of flu viruses around the world, known seasonal viruses now are prevalent and even dominant in countries such as South Africa.

Chan acknowledged that swine flu was no longer “crowding out” other virus types and was behaving like seasonal flu, while populations appeared to have built up a degree of immunity thanks to exposure last year or vaccination.

“Continued vigilance is extremely important,” Chan cautioned, adding that “good luck” had also played its part in the virus’s decline.

The monthly growth in the global pandemic toll has been below 200 for the past three months, compared to 2,000 to 4,000 at the beginning of the year.

Outbreaks have become “less intense” and smaller, Fukuda said.

However, younger people and vulnerable groups such as pregnant women still stood greater risk of more severe illness, he cautioned.

The WHO has responded to criticism of the international alert by setting up a committee of external experts to review the handling of the pandemic, which is due to give its findings by the beginning of next year.

But some lessons have been learnt already, Chan and Fukuda said, including the lack of drugs for poor nations in an emergency, the need for better communications and to revamp a pandemic alert system designed for a more severe virus.

Vaccines for regular seasonal influenza viruses now incorporate protection against A(H1N1) swine flu, and the WHO insists on the merits of flu jabs.

The world remains on phase three of the flu alert scale for the less infectious but deadlier H5N1 bird flu.

© 2010 AFP

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