Emergencies preparedness, response

Director-General statement following the ninth meeting of the Emergency Committee

10 August 2010

The Emergency Committee held its ninth meeting by teleconference on 10 August 2010.

The Emergency Committee was given an epidemiological overview and update of the global H1N1 (2009) pandemic influenza situation by the secretariat. Particular emphasis was placed on the epidemiological situation in the southern hemisphere, where many countries are experiencing their winter influenza season. The update also covered certain countries reporting active pandemic influenza virus transmission. Representatives of the governments of Argentina, Australia, India, New Zealand and South Africa described the most recent developments in their countries. Particular attention was given to the situation in some countries which are currently experiencing intense influenza epidemics largely caused by the H1N1 (2009) virus.

While noting such epidemics with concern, the Committee based its assessment on the global situation. Members noted clear indications that influenza, worldwide, is transitioning towards seasonal patterns of transmission. In the majority of countries, out-of-season outbreaks are no longer being observed, and the intensity of H1N1 (2009) transmission is lower than that reported during 2009 and early 2010. Members further noted that the H1N1 (2009) virus will likely continue to circulate for some years to come, taking on the behaviour of a seasonal influenza virus.

The Committee agreed that the global influenza situation no longer represented an extraordinary event requiring immediate emergency actions on an international scale. In their view, the public health emergency of international concern, recommended following the emergence of the H1N1 (2009) virus, should be considered over. The Committee further noted that the temporary recommendations adopted in response to the public health emergency of international concern were terminated.

After extensive discussions, the Committee unanimously advised the Director-General that the world was no longer experiencing an influenza pandemic, but that some countries continue to experience significant H1N1 (2009) epidemics. Members agreed that waiting for winter data from the southern hemisphere had been necessary in order to make such a global assessment with reasonable confidence.

The Committee noted that the information from India, New Zealand and the Pacific Island countries was consistent with the expectation that individual countries might experience significant levels of influenza associated with the H1N1 (2009) virus in the future, and expressed the need for national authorities to continue to implement outbreak response measures in those countries when such events occur. The Committee strongly emphasized the need for States to maintain vigilant disease surveillance and monitoring for influenza outbreaks and influenza-like illness as well as ensuring the availability of necessary public health measures for preventing and controlling influenza. Such measures include the continued use of H1N1 (2009) pandemic or seasonal influenza vaccines where appropriate and available. The Committee noted that the uptake of pandemic vaccine in some Pacific Island countries appeared sufficiently high to reduce the risk of outbreaks in these countries.

Based on the advice of the Emergency Committee, and her own assessment of the situation, the Director-General determined that the world was no longer in an influenza pandemic and therefore terminated the public health emergency of international concern in accordance with the International Health Regulations (2005).

In light of these determinations, the Director-General thanked the members and the advisor of the Emergency Committee for their diligent service and expert advice, which were of great importance to international public health.

The work of the Emergency Committee now being ended, the names, affiliations and declared interests of the Committee members and advisor will be published on the WHO website as soon as possible.