Geneva, Switzerland

WHO says H1N1 pandemic is over

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the H1N1 influenza pandemic over, saying worldwide flu activity has returned to typical seasonal patterns and many people have immunity to the virus.

“The world is no longer in phase 6 of influenza pandemic alert,” said WHO director-general Margaret Chan in a press briefing from Hong Kong. “We are now moving into the post-pandemic period. The H1N1 virus has largely run its course.”

But she cautioned that the virus has not gone away and bears continued watching, commenting, “We expect the H1N1 virus to take on the behavior of a seasonal influenza virus and continue to circulate for some years to come.”

WHO’s Emergency Committee met on the August 10th, 2010 and recommended that the agency move to the post-pandemic phase, Chan said, adding that she fully supports the step. The declaration comes almost exactly 14 months after WHO moved to a full phase 6 pandemic alert on 11 Jun 2009, and about 1.5 months after US health officials called off their public health emergency declaration on 23 Jun 2010.

This hopefully also brings an end to the persistent association with pigs, that the erroneous earlier denomination “swine fever” has created in the public opinion and which led some countries to preventively depopulate entire pig-rearing sectors.

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