WHO Emergency Panel to Determine If Swine Flu Pandemic is Over

by Trilok Kapur on  February 13, 2010 at 12:44 PM Respiratory Disease News
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An emergency panel of swine flu experts would meet this month to formally determine whether the pandemic has passed its peak, said The World Health Organisation on Thursday.
 WHO Emergency Panel to Determine If Swine Flu Pandemic is Over
WHO Emergency Panel to Determine If Swine Flu Pandemic is Over

"WHO will be asking the emergency committee to convene later this month to review the situation and provide the WHO with guidance on whether we are entering a post peak period," said Keiji Fukuda, Special Adviser to the WHO Director-General on Pandemic Influenza.

"What we are hoping for is that the worst is behind us," Fukuda said during a telephone news briefing.

The A(H1N1) flu pandemic was generally tailing off in most parts of the world and appeared to be entering a transitional period, according to the UN health agency.

However, Fukuda cautioned that there could be no abrupt end to the pandemic alert triggered last year.

"We may be seeing a general decline in pandemic activity but the pandemic itself has not yet run its full course," he added

Swine flu would continue at various levels around the world in the immediate future, and some areas should expect a localised upsurge, Fukuda said.

There were signs that swine flu was taking hold in West Africa.

"We're now seeing the first evidence of community transmission in Senegal," said Fukuda.

"I expect that if there are a number of severe cases like in other countries this will cause some stress on clinical facilities."

More than 15,000 people have died worldwide from the new A(H1N1) strain since it was uncovered in Mexico and the United States in April 2008, according to the WHO.

It has swept around the world, reaching at least 211 countries and territories.

The emergency committee of specialists, which will probably meet in the last week of February, provides WHO Director General Margaret Chan with definitive scientific guidance on severe health threats.

Fukuda said its stance would help public authorities around the world adjust their planning for the disease, as it appeared to be gradually shifting towards a pattern more akin to seasonal flu.

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

Britain's public swine flu hotline, launched seven months ago amid the rapid global spread of the virus, was switched off on Thursday after a steady fall in the number of cases reported.

Algeria last week joined a number of countries seeking a sharp cut in their order of swine flu vaccines.

Critics have accused the WHO of over estimating the danger of the A(H1N1) strain, particularly in recent months as its symptoms generally turned out to be milder than feared and the disease petered out as it spread across the earth.

Source: AFP

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