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World Health Organization update on the H1N1 pandemic

Colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) revealing H1N1 virus in a tissue sample.
Colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) revealing H1N1 virus in a tissue sample.
Photo: CDC/C. Goldsmith & D. Rollin, 2009

The World Health Organization (WHO) is monitoring the H1N1 2009 influenza pandemic.  This is done through frequent discussions with regional offices and WHO member countries as well as other sources. As of the first week of February, more than 212 countries and overseas territories or communities have reported laboratory confirmed cases of pandemic influenza H1N1 2009.  Worldwide, this includes over 15,000 deaths.

The level of pandemic influenza activity varies widely throughout the world.  In the more temperate climates of the northern hemisphere, activity is continuing to decline in most countries.  Although the pandemic influenza virus continues to circulate widely across Europe, as well as Southeast Asia, the activity has declined noticeably from the peak levels seen earlier.  In the tropical zones, as well as the northern temperate zones of the Americas, the level of influenza activity is continuing to decline.  In Central America and the nations in the Caribbean, transmission of the virus continues, yet the activity level remains low.

On February 23rd, the WHO Director-General consulted with the Emergency Committee concerning its views on the status of the pandemic.  After extensive discussion, the Committee agreed that there was mixed evidence showing either low or declining activity in many countries.  However, the Committee also expressed concern that the winter months had not yet begun south of the equator and additional waves of activity could not be ruled out. 

The Committee advised that it was premature to conclude that all parts of the world have experienced peak transmission of H1N1 pandemic influenza.  After asking additional questions and reviewing the evidence, the Director-General determined that there had been no change in the pandemic phase, and decided to continue to monitor the situation closely and to convene the Emergency Committee again within the next several weeks.

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