The global swine flu pandemic alert has been lifted. World Health Organisation director-general Margaret Chan said on Tuesday the H1N1 pandemic has largely run its course but warned: “This does not mean it has gone away. While the level of concern is now greatly diminished, vigilance remains important.”
In Nairobi, the director of public health, Dr Shanaz Sharif said while the WHO declaration was welcome, Kenya would not relax its vigilance. “We still have to monitor our activities just as before,” he said.
The virus started in Mexico in April 2009 and on June 11 the same year, the World Health Organisation officially declared it a global pandemic.
Kenya confirmed its first case on June 29. The country went on to report more than 800 suspected cases after the first one, involving a British university student who was in a group of 34 on an educational tour, was diagnosed in Kisumu.
By the end of last year, 775 cases had been confirmed. In April this year, the government launched a Sh43 million vaccination programme at Kenyatta National Hospital.
WHO’s Chan said that based on experience with past pandemics, the H1N1 swine flu virus will behave like a garden-variety type of flu and will continue to circulate for some years to come.
Kenya is among countries stuck with tonnes of the Tamiflu vaccine that was used to fight the flu. At the height of the pandemic in July 2009, British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline Plc had orders for 440 million doses from over 20 governments.
Other firms that have made huge profits from the flu outbreak include Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis, Baxter, AstraZeneca and CSL.
The huge profits have raised questions among developing countries over the genuineness of the flu, with claims it could have been a ploy to enrich these multinationals.