WHO keeps swine flu pandemic alert

World Health Organisation chief Margaret Chan on Thursday decided to maintain a pandemic alert nearly a year after she placed the world on maximum readiness for the new swine flu virus.

The WHO said following advice from a panel of scientists that although the outbreak had declined, cases of A(H1N1) influenza were expected to continue in the coming weeks mainly during the southern hemisphere's flu season.

"Committee members stressed that it remains critical for countries to continue to maintain vigilance concerning the pandemic," the agency said in a statement.

The announcement followed a teleconference on Tuesday of the committee, which comprises 15 scientists headed by Australian infectious diseases expert John Mackenzie and advises Chan.

"Following the advice of the Emergency Committee, the Director-General determined that while the period of most intense pandemic activity has passed, pandemic disease is expected to continue to occur," the WHO said.

It added that the situation would be reassessed by mid July 2010, when full information on the winter influenza season in the south was available.

Tropical areas of the Caribbean and South Asia are currently the most active areas for the pandemic, with a "relatively low level of resurgence of cases".

However, last year those areas experienced their most intense bouts of swine flu in July, the WHO underlined.

In temperate areas of the southern hemisphere, increases in general influenza activity were within common seasonal epidemic levels, while in West Africa the pandemic flu has largely subsided after a peak in February and March, it added.

A(H1N1) influenza has killed more than 18,114 people and affected some 214 countries and territories since the virus emerged in Mexico and the United States in April 2009, according to WHO data.

The new virus spread swiftly worldwide despite emergency containment, prompting the UN health agency to scale up its alerts and declare a pandemic on June 11, 2009.

Fears about the severity of swine flu and a harmful mutation sparked a rush for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of specially-developed vaccines and a flurry of public health precautions.

But those concerns fizzled out in the latter stages of 2009, especially in the northern hemisphere.

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

"Pandemic or no pandemic, H1N1 will still exist. If there is no pandemic it means that H1N1 is behaving like a seasonal influenza virus but it is still there," spokesman Gregory Haertl said.

"Therefore vaccination against H1N1 is still important," he added, especially for pregnant women, the young and those weakened by other ailments.

The WHO has responded to criticism of the international alert by setting up an independent committee of experts this year to review the handling of the swine flu pandemic.

The review panel is due to report its findings by the beginning of next year.

 

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

    £7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

    Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

    £27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

    Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'