- Obama military downsizing leaves U.S. too weak to counter global threats, panel finds
- Sen. Tom Coburn vows to slow down budget-busting bills ahead of recess
- Obama fantasizes about more executive power, signs new order on federal contractors
- Clintons call Klein, Halper, Kessler ‘a Hat Trick of despicable actors’: report
- Boehner accuses Obama of ‘legacy of lawlessness’
- Pro-marijuana group claims responsibility for Brooklyn Bridge flag swap
- Young adults shun Obamacare mostly due to cost: survey
- Stabbing attack on transgender girl, 15, was ‘bias motivated,’ police say
- LGBT adults still lean overwhelmingly toward Democratic Party
- Lawmakers rattled by Syria genocide horrors, call on Obama to act
WHO: Decision on swine flu pandemic likely Tuesday
Question of the Day
GENEVA (AP) - The World Health Organization said it will likely decide Tuesday whether to declare the swine flu pandemic over, months after many national authorities started canceling vaccine orders and shutting down hotlines as the disease ebbed from the headlines.
The decision would be announced in the afternoon by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan after consulting with the global body’s emergency committee of top flu experts, said spokesman Gregory Hartl.
Chan can either decide to keep WHO’s pandemic alert at its current phase 6 level _ the highest _ or shift to the “post-peak” or “post-pandemic” stages. The latter two would effectively acknowledge that the pandemic is on hold or over.
The number of deaths from swine flu has fallen dramatically in recent months.
Last week, WHO said at least 18,449 people had died worldwide since the outbreak began in April 2009, though it noted that the true figure is likely to be higher. Still, lab-confirmed deaths globally increased by only about 300 in the past two months.
“We haven’t any pandemic anymore,” said Jean-Louis Zuercher, a spokesman for Switzerland’s Office of Public Health.
The Alpine nation gave local authorities permission in May to destroy expired swine flu vaccines after finding its stocks were full of unused supplies. A total of 20 people died from swine flu in Switzerland _ out of almost 5,000 across Europe. That figure is far lower than the number of people who would normally die from seasonal flu every year, a fact that has been partly attributed to higher vaccination rates and some level of immunity among older people.
Prof. Angus Nicoll, flu program coordinator at the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, said a decision to declare the pandemic over would be consistent with the Stockholm-based body’s recent findings.
While flu activity in the northern hemisphere is seasonally low, monitoring in southern hemisphere countries shows that few people are falling seriously ill from swine flu, said Nicoll.
Local spikes in flu deaths, such as seen recently in India, are likely due to better surveillance, he said.
Nevertheless, health officials around the world should prepare for a new type of seasonal flu to appear in the near future that will combine elements of the pandemic A(H1N1) strain, and older A(H3N2) strain and several lesser strains, said Nicoll.
“It looks sort of middle of the road at the moment,” he said.
Nicoll noted that high-risk groups such as pregnant women should continue to get vaccinated because swine flu has been shown to pose a particular risk to them.
Health authorities in Britain shut down their pandemic flu hotline in February and canceled vaccine orders by a third back in April as it became clear the pandemic strain would be less dangerous than feared. Worst-case scenarios had predicted up to 65,000 deaths in Britain. In the end there were 457 confirmed deaths from swine flu.
In Germany, authorities are meeting later this week to discuss who is going to pick up the bill for the 34 million doses of vaccines that were ordered and mostly not used.
Associated Press writer Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin and AP medical writer Maria Cheng in London contributed to this report.
TWT Video Picks
Both parties recognize the Democrats' scam
- Inside the Ring: Israel surprised by Hamas tunnel network
- CRUZ: A tale of two hospitals: One in Israel, one in Gaza
- Chicken pox outbreak puts illegal immigrant facility on lockdown
- Israel surprised by Hamas tunnel network
- Report: 40% of weapons sent to Afghanistan are unaccounted for
- Catholic League slams Obama: 'Do Christian lives mean so little to you?'
- GOP leaders delay border bill, leave Obama in control
- CIA admits improperly hacking Senate computers in search of Bush-era information
- Sarah Palin's online channel hits snag as Stephen Colbert buys similar URL
- 'Big Bang' star Mayim Bialik helps send bulletproof vests to IDF
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world