WHO Declares H1N1 Pandemic Over And Faces Criticism

By Joseph Straw


The Associated Press, meanwhile, is reporting that countries are throwing out millions of unused doses of H1N1 vaccine.

Experts told Security Management that the H1N1 outbreak exposed critical shortcomings in U.S. pandemic response that persist despite five years of planning and preparation launched in response to the H5N1 “avian” flu:

  • Pre-H1N1 plans were based on preventing outbreaks overseas from entering the United States. However, by the time U.S. public officials became aware of H1N1’s outbreak in Mexico, it was already in the U.S.
  • The United States still lacks the capability to track incidence and mortality in large-scale outbreaks—statistics are simply estimates based on a small sampling of hospitals and public health labs.
  • Mass production and delivery of pandemic vaccine still takes months from the start of an outbreak.
  • The U.S. public health sector failed to communicate the safety of the H1N1 vaccine amid growing public debate about the safety of vaccines in general. The H1N1 vaccine was nearly identical in composition to seasonal flu vaccine, which is known to be safe.

(Read more about lessons learned from the H1N1 pandemic in “Pandemic Lessons Learned” in the Homeland Security department of February’s Security Management.)

The WHO noted that the H1N1 virus continues to infect people worldwide, but at post-pandemic levels.

The deadly yet rare H5N1 threat still persists as well. H5N1 shows a high rate of mortality in humans—roughly 50 percent—but as yet it rarely passes from birds to humans, and has not clearly demonstrated a capability for human-to-human transmission.

♦ Photo by The Truth About.../Flickr


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