H1N1 Flu Virus Goes “Post-Pandemic”

The pandemic caused by the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus is now post-pandemic, according to a statement issued today by WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan.

We should consider ourselves lucky that the 2009 H1N1 virus remained relatively mild, despite its hostile takeover of other circulating flu viruses last fall. Now, according to data from the WHO, many countries where seasonal flu is occuring are reporting a mix of viruses. So, it sounds like the 2009 H1N1 is settling down to play happily in the mix with other circulating flu viruses, learning how to take turns with the likes of H1N3 and influenza B, which join 2009 H1N1 in the 2010-2011 seasonal flu vaccine. But hold on to your hand sanitizer—“Pandemics, like the viruses that cause them, are unpredictable,” Dr. Chan said in her statement. And she’s right: Think back to every horror movie you have ever seen, or any book where it seems like the villain must be dead.

courtesy of flickr user sdecoret (creative commons)

“No one could have survived that fall/ explosion /fire/gunshot wound/ decapitation/banishment to a parallel universe.”

Not until it’s time for the sequel.

The 2009 H1N1 pandemic was, in many ways, a trial run for how the government and the medical community can work together to provide information—and health care—to the public in an emergency. There is room for improvement, especially as social media evolves, but the regular media updates and availability of information online was at least a starting point for communicating this type of news effectively. And even though there has been some controversy over whether governments ordered too much of the H1N1 vaccine, one could argue that it is better to have too much than not enough. Imagine the panic if the H1N1 virus had been deadlier, and there was a vaccine shortage.That’s another potential positive side effect of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic—a revisiting of the vaccine-making process. Maybe we can look forward to quicker, more efficient vaccine production. Maybe not right away, but perhaps in time for H1N1 II: The Swine Flu Strikes Back. Coming Soon to a Germy Person Near You.

“Continued vigilance is extremely important,” Dr. Chan said in her statement. To that end, the WHO offers recommendations for the post-pandemic period on its website, and the CDC continues to provide the latest flu information.
—Heidi Splete (On Twitter @HSplete)
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Filed under Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, IMNG, Infectious Diseases, Primary care, The Mole

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