GENEVA, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday declared an end to the H1N1 pandemic influenza, more than a year after its spread.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan made the announcement following recommendations from the Emergency Committee of international experts.
"The world is no longer in phase 6 of influenza pandemic alert. We are now moving into the post-pandemic period. The new H1N1 virus has largely run its course," Chan told a telephone press conference.
Chan said the decision was based on assessments made by the 15-member Emergency Committee, which was convened earlier Tuesday by teleconference.
"The Committee based its assessment on the global situation, as well as reports from several countries that are now experiencing influenza. I fully agree with the Committee's advice," Chan said.
Chan added, however, that the post-pandemic period "does not mean that the H1N1 virus has gone away."
"Based on experience with past pandemics, we expect the H1N1 virus to take on the behaviour of a seasonal influenza virus and continue to circulate for some years to come," she said.
She warned that in the post-pandemic period, "localized outbreaks of different magnitude may show significant levels of H1N1 transmission." And this is the situation currently being observed in New Zealand and India.
She also called for continued vigilance and surveillance, as the H1N1 virus is still unpredictable in the immediate post-pandemic period.
"Based on available evidence and experience from past pandemics, it is likely that the virus will continue to cause serious disease in younger age groups, at least in the immediate post-pandemic period," Chan said.
"Groups identified during the pandemic as at higher risk of severe or fatal illness will probably remain at heightened risk, though hopefully the number of such cases will diminish," she added.
In a statement, the WHO also said that vaccination remained important as a means of reducing the morbidity and mortality caused by influenza viruses.
The H1N1 influenza was first identified in North American in April 2009, and due to its fast spread, the WHO raised its alert level to the top phase of six, which means a pandemic is under way, two months later.
So far more than 214 countries and overseas territories or communities have reported laboratory confirmed cases of the pandemic influenza, including at least 18,449 deaths, according to WHO data.
- WHO declares H1N1 pandemic over, but virus risk remains 2010-08-11
- Backgrounder: A/H1N1 flu pandemic 2010-08-11
- Video: WHO: End of H1N1 flu pandemic 2010-08-11