WHO declares swine flu pandemic over
The head of the World Health Organization on Tuesday said that the swine flu pandemic was over, DPA reported.
"We are now moving into the post-pandemic period," WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a teleconference. "The new H1N1 virus has largely run its course."
Chan said the virus was being downgraded from a pandemic on the advice of the Emergency Committee - a panel of 15 international scientists who have been meeting on a regular basis.
The committee met for three hours earlier on Tuesday before advising the WHO chief to announce the end of the pandemic.
Out-of-season outbreaks are no longer being observed and the number of influenza cases have dropped to normal seasonal epidemic levels, Chan said.
H1N1 emerged in Mexico and the United States early last year, and the WHO in June declared it to be the first pandemic in decades.
The virus killed over 18,449 people and affected over 200 countries and territories, according to WHO figures.
However, Chan said the illness could have been much worse.
"This time around, we have been aided by pure good luck," she said. "The virus did not mutate during the pandemic to a more lethal form."
She warned that vulnerable groups, such as young children, will continue to remain prone to the illness in the post-pandemic period, and that those with underlying conditions could still fall victim.
"Groups identified during the pandemic as at higher risk of severe or fatal illness will probably remain at heightened risk, though hopefully the number of such cases will diminish," she said..