Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Scientists advising WHO could recommend ending the pandemic alert

(AFP) – 1 day ago

"GENEVA — Scientists advising the World Health Organisation on Tuesday held a meeting to give their latest assessment of swine flu, in a move that could end the pandemic alert, a WHO spokesman said.

The UN health agency said the result of the confidential meeting would be announced on Wednesday.

Speaking shortly before the teleconference began, WHO spokesman Gregory Haertl said the scientists would be 'reviewing the epidemiological situation around the world' and that a 'recommendation or announcement one way or the other' would be made. Asked if the emergency committee of scientists could recommend an end to the pandemic declared by the UN health agency nearly a year ago, Haertl said: 'They could.' 'The two most likely outcomes are either the status quo or post-pandemic,' he told journalists.

WHO Director General Margaret Chan has closely followed the advice of the 15-member emergency committee headed by Australian infectious diseases expert John Mackenzie since swine flu was first uncovered in April 2009. It played a crucial role in recommending an international emergency over the new virus and scaling up different stages of alert, including the declaration of a pandemic on June 11, 2009. The committee declined to wind down the pandemic alert at its last meeting in February after the disease appeared to wane in North America and Europe.

Mackenzie said in April that he was waiting to see how A(H1N1) influenza progressed in the southern hemisphere's traditional autumn and winter flu seasons, amid predictions of a second wave. Last Friday, the WHO's weekly pandemic assessment noted that there was 'little evidence of pandemic influenza activity in the temperate zone of the southern hemisphere,' except for parts of Chile.

Haertl told journalists: 'Examining what's happening, or has not yet happened, in the southern hemisphere yet will probably be key to their discussions this afternoon (Tuesday).' "


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