WHO chief warns of fresh H1N1 outbreaks

World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan recently warned that although the recent H1N1 pandemic has been officially declared over, health officials still need to be remain alert for fresh outbreaks.

Chan, who recently addressed health ministers during a four-day flu conference in Bangkok, said continued vigilance will help limit the effects of H1N1 flu outbreaks, VOANews.com reports.

“In the current post-pandemic period we expect to see localized outbreaks of different magnitude and some continuing 'hot spots' would experience high levels of H1N1 infections,” Chan told VOANews.com. “This pattern is indeed being seen in a few parts of the world including Southeast Asia. Let me remind you the pandemic virus has not gone away.”

Chan says medical experts now expect the H1N1 virus to become a seasonal flu, remaining a threat to the young and to pregnant women, adding that although outbreaks have slowed, new cases have been reported in Asia-Pacific region countries. These cases are linked to the winter in the southern hemisphere and monsoon rains in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Chan said new cases were also reported in Australia and New Zealand.

Health officials in India, Chan said, have also recently reported cases in New Delhi and the cities of Udaipur and Jaipur, VOANews.com reports.

Chan also praised India's response to the outbreaks.

“Protecting high-risk groups and maintaining vigilance are recommended actions," Chan said, according to VOANews.com. "Some countries are continuing to protect high-risk groups with pandemic vaccine and this policy is fully in line with WHO recommendations. In fact, the actions of health authorities in India in terms of vigilance, quick detection and treatment and recommended vaccinations provide a good model.”