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New delay in WHO reassessment on swine flu pandemic

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Experts advising the World Health Organisation on whether to end the year-old swine flu pandemic alert could now meet as late as August, the agency’s chief said Wednesday.

An emergency committee of 15 scientists headed by Australian infectious diseases expert John Mackenzie was meant to reassess by mid-July whether to recommend an end to the A(H1N1) pandemic.

But WHO chief Margaret Chan told AFP said the team had decided to wait a few more weeks in order to obtain more information about the development of the flu in the southern hemisphere’s winter.

“In the northern hemisphere, the situation is OK, but we have to look at the situation in the southern hemisphere,” said Chan.

“The president of the committee said that we have to wait and see what is going on in Australia and New Zealand where, traditionally, the peak for influenza is in August. “So I expect the committee to meet at the end of July or in August,” added the director-general of the WHO.

The WHO declared a swine flu pandemic on June 11, 2009.

Following the committee’s last meeting in June, Chan had decided to maintain a pandemic alert for swine flu, which according to WHO data has claimed some 18,311 lives worldwide.

Geneva, July 14, 2010 (AFP)