Op-Ed: H1N1 Ebbs Worldwide, Legacies and Lessons Continue

With the passage of time, H1N1 has been quiet in the USA. No states have reported widespread or regional flu activity for five consecutive weeks. Doctor visits for Influenza-like Illness (ILI) are below baseline across all ten CDC regions.

On the international front, H1N1 has receded across much of the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports the most active areas of pandemic influenza virus transmission “currently are in parts of the Caribbean and Southeast Asia.” The need to monitor winter influenza developments in the southern hemispere explains the WHO decision to delay consideration of a reduction in pandemic level.

As pandemic H1N1 apparently ebbs, some questions remain for future public health preparedness. Medical research continues to further our understanding of H1N1. The virus itself continues to evolve.

In the USA, public health reponse to H1N1 was a measured success. Public interest in H1N1 remained generally high and receptive to public health messages; the public largely adopted H1N1 prevention recommendations. H1N1 vaccination clincs were erected in “non-traditional venues such as shopping malls, airports, subway stations, and sporting events.” Rates of uptake of seasonal and H1N1 vaccines were impressive. As many as 81 million Americans (up to 27% of the population) were vaccinated against pandemic H1N1.

However, there were vaccine production bottlenecks, due to lower-than-expected vaccine yields, resulting in insufficient vaccine supplies during peak demand in November, 2009, at a time when the pandemic was intensifying. Public health planners can find little comfort in persistent negative perceptions of vaccine safety across large segments of the population. H1N1 resistance to antiviral medications, while still isolated and sporadic, must be closely monitored over time.

In short, the news on H1N1 continues. The focus of this influenza archive going forward, will be on what we have learned, and what we will continue to learn.

Editor’s Note: Apologies to Influenza Monitor readers for the lengthy hiatus.

CDC: 2009-2010 Influenza Season Week 19 ending May 15, 2010
CDC: Updated CDC Estimates of 2009 H1N1 Influenza Cases, Hospitalizations and Deaths in the United States, April 2009 – April 10, 2010
CIDRAP: H1N1 LESSONS LEARNED: Vaccination campaign weathered rough road, paid dividends
NEJM: The Public’s Response to the 2009 H1N1 Influenza Pandemic
Reuters: WHO panel to review H1N1 pandemic status in coming weeks
WHO: Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 – update 101

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