World Health Organization Declares End to H1N1 Influenza Pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee and the WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, today declared an end to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. This declaration was based on strong indications that influenza, worldwide, is transitioning toward seasonal patterns of transmission.

In the majority of countries, out-of-season 2009 H1N1 outbreaks are no longer being observed, and the intensity of 2009 H1N1 influenza virus transmission is lower than that reported during 2009 and early 2010. Members of the Emergency Committee further noted that the 2009 H1N1 viruses will likely continue to circulate for some years to come, taking on the behavior of a seasonal influenza virus.

This does not mean that the H1N1 virus has disappeared. Rather, it means current influenza outbreaks including those primarily caused by the 2009 H1N1 virus, show an intensity similar to that seen during seasonal epidemics. Pandemics, like the viruses that cause them, are unpredictable. WHO noted that continued vigilance is extremely important, and it is likely that the virus will continue to cause serious disease in younger age groups and pregnant women, at least in the immediate post-pandemic period.

The WHO Director-General ended the Public Health Emergency of International Concern in accordance with the International Health Regulations (2005).

Implications for United States
This is a formal WHO declaration regarding the end of the pandemic at the global level. The U.S. Public Health Emergency determination for 2009 H1N1 Influenza expired on June 23, 2010.

The only impact on the United States resulting from the WHO declaration will be a cessation in weekly reporting under the International Health Regulations (IHR) to the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization. CDC has reported weekly to IHR since early in the pandemic.

There are no changes for the United States in terms of CDC’s recommendations for the upcoming influenza season and the United States is already proceeding with the understanding that the 2009 H1N1 virus is now part of seasonal influenza virus circulation.

Protecting Yourself and Others from Influenza
CDC recommends a three-step approach to fighting flu: vaccination, everyday preventive actions and the correct use of antiviral drugs if your doctor recommends them. The first and most important step in protecting against the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season.

The U.S. 2010-2011 influenza vaccine will protect against an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus, and the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus that caused the first global pandemic in more than 40 years and resulted in substantial illness, hospitalizations and deaths. In the United States, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recently recommended that everyone 6 months of age and older be vaccinated against influenza each season. Pregnant women, young children, and anyone with underlying health conditions like asthma, diabetes and neuromuscular diseases are at especially high risk for influenza-related complications and, therefore, should be vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available. Vaccine manufacturers are predicting an ample supply of influenza vaccine for the upcoming 2010-2011 U.S. influenza season.

Source: CDC, August 10, 2010

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