End of Swine Flu pandemic announced
Wed, 11 Aug 2010 9:24a.m.
The World Health Organisation has declared the swine flu pandemic officially over, months after many national authorities started cancelling vaccine orders and shutting down hot lines as the disease ebbed from the headlines.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the organisation's emergency committee of top flu experts advised her that the pandemic had "largely run its course" and the world is no longer in phase six - the highest influenza alert level.
"We are now moving into the post-pandemic period," Chan told reporters in a telephone briefing from her native Hong Kong.
Disease activity around the world has returned to levels usually seen for seasonal influenza, she said.
But Chan cautioned against complacency, saying that even though hospitalisations and deaths have dropped sharply, countries should still keep a watchful eye for unusual patterns of infection and mutations that might render existing vaccines and antiviral drugs ineffective.
At least 18,449 people have died worldwide since the outbreak began in April 2009.
WHO said last week that the true figure is likely to be higher, but the organisation's flu chief, Keiji Fukuda, said a final number won't be known for some months.
Nevertheless, lab-confirmed deaths globally increased by only about 300 in the past two months and many countries have long since closed the chapter on swine flu.
Governments in Europe and North America started dumping vaccines earlier this year after finding their stocks were full of unused and expiring supplies.
The disease is believed to have originated in Mexico, and the first fatality registered was that of 39 year old Adela Maria Gutierrez from Oaxaca.
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