WHO Committee Reviews Mixed Evidence on Status of H1N1 Pandemic

Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), presided over the Emergency Committee of the WHO, which held its seventh meeting by teleconference on Feb. 23 to determine the H1N1 influenza pandemic status.

A detailed update was provided to the Committee on the global pandemic situation. After asking additional questions and reviewing the evidence and holding extensive discussion, the Committee believed that there was mixed evidence showing declining or low pandemic activity in many countries, but new community level transmission activity in West Africa. Moreover, they expressed concern that the winter months of the Southern Hemisphere had not yet started and there was uncertainty whether additional generalized waves of activity might occur and the need to not undermine preparations.

The Committee advised that it was premature to conclude that all parts of the world have experienced peak transmission of the H1N1 pandemic influenza and that additional time and information was needed to provide expert advice on the status of the pandemic. The Committee suggested that its members reconvene in a few weeks to review intervening developments and related epidemiological information.

Having considered these views, the current epidemiological evidence and other relevant information, Chan determined that there had been no change in the pandemic phase, and decided to continue to monitor the situation and developments closely and to convene the Committee again within the next several weeks.

Chan asked the Committee members for their views on continuance of the three current temporary IHR recommendations issued for the public health emergency of international concern. The consensus view of the Committee was in favor of continuation but to update the second recommendation by replacing "intensify" with "maintain" in recognition of the increased pandemic surveillance already implemented by countries and the need to maintain this activity. Having considered the views of the Emergency Committee, and the ongoing pandemic situation, Chan determined to continue the three temporary recommendations, as modified, namely:

-- countries should not close borders or restrict international traffic and trade

-- maintain surveillance of unusual flu-like illness and severe pneumonia

-- if ill, it is prudent to delay travel

Source: WHO