WHO reassesses swine flu pandemic

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Scientists from the World Health Organisation met on Tuesday over whether to recommend the lifting of the swine flu pandemic alert, an agency spokesman said.

WHO chief Margaret Chan, who is expected to follow the recommendations of the emergency committee of scientists after their three-hour meeting, was due to make an announcement later in the day, a spokesman for the UN body said.

"There will be an announcement today on the results of the meeting by the director general," Gregory Hartl told AFP.

It was the third meeting since February of the emergency committee of 15 scientists headed by Australian infectious diseases expert John Mackenzie to reassess the A(H1N1) pandemic declared on its advice in June 11, 2009.

Chan has closely followed the panel's advice since the new swine flu virus was detected in Mexico and the United States in April 2009.

The latest meeting was delayed by several weeks in order to obtain more information about the development of the flu in the southern hemisphere's winter, Chan said last month.

A(H1N1) influenza has killed more than 18,449 people and affected some 214 countries and territories, according to WHO data, which also show that swine flu has waned since the beginning of the year.

Under WHO pandemic alert guidelines, the agency has two options if it does decide to change, officials have said.

The next step down is a "post-peak" phase, which does not rule out possible new waves although the swine flu virus appears to be decreasing in countries with adequate surveillance.

However, it could decide to move straight to the "post-pandemic" phase. That would imply that the A(H1N1) virus is expected to behave like seasonal flu, although surveillance should be maintained, according to the UN health agency's guidelines.

© 2010 AFP

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