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Too Early To Declare End Of H1N1 Pandemic, WHO Says

Though there are signs the H1N1 (swine flu) has peaked in the U.S. and Canada, a WHO flu expert said Thursday it is too early to declare the pandemic over, Canadian Press reports. “‘In the Northern Hemisphere, we continue to see an up and down pattern by countries. And so what you see in one country is not necessarily what you are seeing in another country,’ Keiji Fukuda, special adviser to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan on pandemic influenza, said in a teleconference briefing,” the news service writes. Fukada added that it was difficult to predict what would happen with the virus in the springtime (Branswell, 12/3).  

Reuters/ABC News: “I think it’s fair to say that we still haven’t fully gotten through the pandemic and that it is possible that there could be unexpected events which occur,” Fukuda said, adding, “It is quite possible to have a pandemic on the milder side. And if we are experiencing that and the number of serious cases is kept down, then it is something again for which we should all be thankful.” Fukada said the WHO and its advisory committee continue to gather scientific evidence and would likely decide when to declare the end to the pandemic in 2010 (Nebehay, 12/3).

Los Angeles Times’ blog “Booster Shots” reports that more than 150 million H1N1 vaccine doses have been distributed in about 40 countries, according to Fukada. “The United States, with at least 70 million doses, represents nearly half that total,” the blog writes (Maugh, 12/3).

In related news, Bloomberg examines the growing criticism the WHO is facing over claims it exaggerated the threat of H1N1 to benefit members of the pharmaceutical industry. The WHO responded to such criticism in a statement released yesterday (Gale, 12/3). The Canadian Press adds: “The agency said all experts who advise the WHO do so for free and must disclose any potential conflicts of interest. … ‘Allegations of undeclared conflicts of interest are taken very seriously by WHO, and are immediately investigated,’ the statement said” (12/3).