A pandemic that caused fear and then skepticism around the world – and has seldom been in the news since it peaked last fall in Canada – is officially over.
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization declared the H1N1 pandemic ended, saying reports from around the globe showed the virus had run its course.
“As we enter the post-pandemic period, this does not mean that the H1N1 virus has gone away,” WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan said in a press conference.
“Based on experience with past pandemics, we expect the H1N1 virus to take on the behaviour of a seasonal influenza virus and continue to circulate for some years to come.”
The WHO says the bug has killed 18,500 people around the world since it first emerged in the spring of 2009, but H1N1 activity has dropped significantly since late last year.
The new strain caused panic as vaccination clinics and local health units across the country struggled to cope with the overwhelming demand for shots.
Earlier this year, a panel reviewed the WHO’s response to the flu, with critics accusing the international body of sparking unnecessary fear by declaring the so-called swine flu a pandemic. Others claimed commercial interests influenced its decisions.
But Dr. Chan says the WHO had to be prepared for what could have been a much deadlier situation.
“Pandemics are unpredictable and prone to deliver surprises. No two pandemics are ever alike. This pandemic has turned out to be much more fortunate than what we feared a little over a year ago.
This time around, we have been aided by pure good luck. The virus did not mutate during the pandemic to a more lethal form.”