July 20, 2010 / 12:26 AM / 10 years ago

WHO still monitoring H1N1 pandemic: spokesman

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Health Organization’s emergency committee will not meet this week to review data on the H1N1 swine flu pandemic nor will it declare for now an end to the pandemic, a WHO spokesman said.

A nurse prepares a H1N1 influenza vaccine during the start of a campaign against the influenza at a hospital in Tegucigalpa March 23, 2010. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

“There is no EC (emergency committee) this week. We are still monitoring and seeing how the virus behaves in the rest of the southern hemisphere winter,” WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told Reuters.

Bloomberg News, citing two people familiar with the matter, reported late on Monday that the emergency committee intended to convene as early as Tuesday to review data and declare an end to the pandemic which officially began in June 2009.

Health officials are tracking the virus in countries including Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa to check infection rates, Hartl said.

“We’re still in phase 6, it is still a pandemic,” Hartl said, referring to the WHO’s six-phase scale where phase six denotes a full influenza pandemic.

“Basically our reading after talking to a number of countries in the southern hemisphere is it is too early. So there will be nothing this week,” Hartl said.

The committee of influenza experts was set up by the WHO, a United Nations agency, to make recommendations about the pandemic, which emerged in early 2009 in the United States and Mexico and spread around the world in just six weeks.

To date the virus has officially killed 18,337 people, but the WHO says it will take at least a year after the pandemic ends to determine the true toll.

“Worldwide, overall pandemic influenza activity remains low,” the WHO said in its latest weekly update last Friday.

The H1N1 virus was still most actively being transmitted in parts of South Asia, including India, West Africa and Central America, it said at the time.

“Overall in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere (North America and Europe), pandemic and seasonal influenza viruses have been detected only sporadically or at very low levels during the past month,” it added.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay

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