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"We have been aided by pure good luck," she said, adding that if the virus had mutated then the death rate could have been much higher. In some countries as many as two in five people are now immune to swine flu, she said.
But Chan acknowledged that changes may be made to the way WHO defines pandemics. "We need to review the phases, including the severity," she said.
Prof. Angus Nicoll, flu program coordinator at the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, said the decision to declare the pandemic over was consistent with the Stockholm-based body's recent findings.
While flu activity in the northern hemisphere is seasonally low, monitoring in southern hemisphere countries shows that few people are falling seriously ill from swine flu, said Nicoll.
Local spikes in flu deaths, such as seen recently in India, are likely due to better surveillance, he said.
Nevertheless, health officials around the world should prepare for a new type of seasonal flu to appear in the near future that will combine elements of the pandemic A(H1N1) strain, and older A(H3N2) strain and several lesser strains, said Nicoll.
"It looks sort of middle of the road at the moment," he said.
A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said even though swine flu turned out milder than expected, officials have gained valuable insights into how to deal with a pandemic flu outbreak.
"The most important lesson learned from this experience is the critical need for new influenza manufacturing processes," said HHS spokesman Bill Hall.
Chan, in her exchange with journalists, also raised the specter of deadlier flu pandemics in future.
"Lurking in the background we still have H5N1," she said, a reference to the bird flu strain that has infected 503 people over seven years, killing 299.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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