[health-vn] WITH HIGH INFECTIONS IN SOME COUNTRIES, TOO EARLY TO DECLARE H1N1 PANDEMIC OVER – UN
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Sat Jan 16 09:16:40 EST 2010
Subject: WITH HIGH INFECTIONS IN SOME COUNTRIES, TOO EARLY TO DECLARE H1N1
PANDEMIC OVER – UN
Date: Thu, 14 Jan 2010 19:05:12 -0500
From: UNNews <UNNews at un.org>
To: <news9 at secint00.un.org>
WITH HIGH INFECTIONS IN SOME COUNTRIES, TOO EARLY TO DECLARE H1N1 PANDEMIC OVER – UN
New York, Jan 14 2010 7:05PM
With continued elevated levels of H1N1 flu in a number of countries, it remains
too early to say that the pandemic is over, a top United Nations health official
said today in the first major assessment of the new year.
“The most intense pandemic activity continues to be in a couple of places in the
world such as North Africa, in Southern Asia and then in parts of East and
South-east Europe,” UN World Health Organization
Adviser on Pandemic Influenza Keiji Fukuda told a news briefing in Geneva.
“In other parts of the world, we see that activity is declining or has declined
but we also continue to see in these areas a transmission of the virus, so it is
not disappeared, and it is has not gone back to baseline,” he added, stressing
that it is still unclear whether another significant wave will occur in the
northern hemisphere during its winter and spring period, or what will happen in
the southern hemisphere during its winter months.
Last month, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said H1N1 might not be conquered
Dr. Fukuda strenuously rebutted “misconceptions circuiting among the media” that
H1N1 flu was not a pandemic or that WHO had overplay its severity. “The
allegation by some, that the H1N1 pandemic is a fake is both scientifically
wrong and historically inaccurate,” he said.
“At the most conservative count that we have, we estimate, we believe, or we
know that about 13,000 people had been killed directly by this virus. When final
estimates are made, for the world, at some point in the future, we anticipate
that these figures will be much larger that what we see now.”
Likewise the agency had not overplayed the pandemic’s significance. “From the
very beginning WHO has gone out of its way to let everybody know that the future
course of the pandemic was uncertain, that we did not have a crystal ball,” he
said. “Given this reality there's no health authority, including WHO, which can
afford to sit back before making decisions.”
Asked about countries which now have an excess of the vaccine they have bought –
Spain, for example, bought 37 million doses of vaccines of which only 13 million
have been used – Dr. Fukuda said WHO was not involved in such decisions, but
added that it was impossible to second guess them.
“At the beginning of the pandemic and during much of the pandemic, it was really
not clear what the ultimate impact of the pandemic would be, how many people
might die, how many people might suffer serious illnesses from it and so on. And
in that kind of uncertainty, the health authorities still had to go ahead and
make decisions about what to buy,” he stressed.
“I want to point out that the pandemic continues. If the pandemic virus changes
and we begin to see much more serious illness from infections, it is quite
possible that countries will also be asked why they did not buy more vaccines.”
Asked whether the current moderate nature of the disease could lead to a
backlash that might harm future efforts to prepare for flu pandemics, Dr. Fukuda
cited misinformation and misperceptions about what was done as the greatest danger.
“What health authorities, including WHO, most strongly hold forth as the most
important goal is to make sure that everything can be done to protect people
from harm,” he said. “So in this situation, I think that this is an application
of the so-called precautionary principle: prepare for the worst and hope for the
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