WHO says too early to declare swine flu peak over

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 15:55

Geneva: It is too early to say that the swine flu pandemic has peaked in all parts of the world, the World Health Organization’s emergency committee said.

"The Committee advised that it was premature to conclude that all parts of the world have experienced peak transmission of the H1N1 pandemic influenza," a spokesman said Tuesday, adding more "time and information was needed."
Gregory Hartl said the decision of 15 experts was not binding, and that a final decision would be taken by WHO Secretary General Margaret Chan.

But the committee felt that more time and more information was needed to give an informed opinion on the state of the pandemic, he added.

Their conclusions will be set out in more detail in a press conference Wednesday, which will include the WHO`s special adviser on pandemics, Keiji Fukuda.

Their views will help national health authorities recalibrate their flu planning and strategy.

The 15-member emergency committee headed by Australian infectious diseases expert John Mackenzie has been following signs over the past months that the A(H1N1) flu virus was tailing off in most parts of the world.

"What we are hoping for is that the worst is behind us," Keiji Fukuda, special adviser to the WHO Director-General on Pandemic Influenza, said earlier this month.

Several countries have already been running down their costly special pandemic flu precautions in recent weeks.

Most recently, the Czech health authorities cancelled around a third of their order of one million H1N1 vaccines from British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) last Friday.

And new recommendations issued by the WHO for later this year incorporate the A(H1N1) virus into seasonal vaccines.

Nearly 16,000 people have died worldwide from the new A(H1N1) strain after it spread into 212 countries and overseas territories since it was uncovered in Mexico and the United States in April 2009, WHO data showed.

Overall, swine flu was declining in most of the northern hemisphere, except for recent reported increases in West Africa.

The post-peak phase does not mean that the pandemic is over but that it is in a transition phase.

If confirmed, it could lead the WHO to revise the recommendations it made to its 193 member states, on precautions such as vaccination, to help governments adapt to the new phase.

Bureau Report



First Published: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 15:55

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