It's Official: H1N1 Pandemic Is Over

It all turned out a bit anticlimatic, but that’s fine with me: the World Health Organization has officially announced that the phase 6 pandemic stage is over. (WHO | H1N1 in post-pandemic period). That doesn’t mean the virus still isn’t out there, or isn’t a threat, it only means that the worldwide spread and containment is now much more mellow. The Director-General has this final statement:

As I said, pandemics are unpredictable and prone to deliver surprises. No two pandemics are ever alike. This pandemic has turned out to be much more fortunate than what we feared a little over a year ago.

This time around, we have been aided by pure good luck. The virus did not mutate during the pandemic to a more lethal form. Widespread resistance to oseltamivir did not develop. The vaccine proved to be a good match with circulating viruses and showed an excellent safety profile.

Thanks to extensive preparedness and support from the international community, even countries with very weak health systems were able to detect cases and report them promptly.

Had things gone wrong in any of these areas, we would be in a very different situation today.

I worked closely with UN China and the WHO last year during the main phases of H1N1, and I personally feel that they did an excellent job. Many people have been complaining that the WHO overreacted, but given the uncertainty of the virus’ potential, I think the response was appropriate. We are indeed very fortunate that it didn’t mutate into a 1918-style catastrophe.

Stay tuned; “normal” flu season is just around the corner…


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