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WHO Says Swine-Flu Pandemic Is Over

Nearly 14 months after declaring a new H1N1 flu to be a pandemic, the World Health Organization said Tuesday that it's over.

Identified in April 2009, the virus has "largely run its course," WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said, prompting the United Nations agency to remove its pandemic alert.

The virus continues to circulate in some parts of the world, but at much lower levels than last year and isn't causing unusual outbreaks outside the normal flu season, Dr. Chan said. Nor is it even the dominant flu strain circulating in the southern hemisphere, which is in its winter flu season now.

For these reasons, a WHO emergency committee of flu experts recommended Tuesday that the pandemic be declared over and that the disease should be considered to now be in a "post-pandemic" phase.

"We expect the H1N1 virus to take on the behavior of a seasonal flu virus and circulate for some years to come," Dr. Chan said.

The announcement comes months after outbreaks of H1N1 flu, also known as swine flu, subsided in the U.S. and many other countries in the northern hemisphere, and after several countries canceled orders for vaccine. Only 311 deaths from the H1N1 virus have been confirmed by laboratories over the past two months, out of 18,449 deaths since April 2009.    

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