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Is the Swine Flu Epidemic Over? Posted: March 1st, 2010

By Maryalene LaPonsie

Maryalene LaPonsie

In June 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially announced that the swine flu, otherwise known as the H1N1 flu, was a pandemic. It was the first such announcement in 40 years. With predictions of mass fatalities, countries across the globe rushed to prepare health clinics and distribute vaccines. Now, many are wondering if the epidemic is over and if the WHO may declare an end to this health emergency.

The Swine Flu: A Brief History

In March 2009, concerns about a new strain of flu were originally raised. The first documented cases involved two children: one in Southern California and one in Mexico. During the following months, the virus spread quickly as government agencies worked to formulate a vaccine.

By June, the number of cases in the United States stood at 18,000, and 144 fatalities had been recorded worldwide. The WHO took the rare step of declaring a pandemic and warned that the swine flu would have global impact during the upcoming flu season.

However, as the flu season progressed in the United States, it become apparent that the flu did not pose the danger first thought. While fatalities did occur, most cases were mild and did not require hospitalization. As the flu season in the Northern Hemisphere comes to an end, the WHO met recently to discuss whether the pandemic warning should continue.

WHO Swine Flu Advisory

At the end of February 2010, the WHO Emergency Committee met to discuss the status of the pandemic. While it noted that incidences of the swine flu are waning, there was also concern that the flu season was just beginning in the Southern Hemisphere. In addition, members of the Emergency Committee expressed concern that by ending the pandemic status, health organizations worldwide would not have access to necessary resources should cases of the flu surge in future months.

Although the WHO committee opted to maintain the pandemic status, it did downgrade its advisory to maintain current flu epidemic activities -- rather than intensifying them. In addition, many countries have independently begun to end some of the infrastructure put into place to address the pandemic. For example, Britain recently disbanded its swine flu hotline.

Officially, the swine flu epidemic continues. However, the reality is that for most Northern Hemisphere countries, the immediate threat has passed. Still, H1N1 vaccines remain available to protect you and your family.

Maryalene LaPonsie