Relaxes international travel restriction recommendations

Following a meeting of the Emergency Committee, the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), decided to continue temporary safety measures to contain the spread of swine flu (H1N1).

The WHO’s policy recommendations are:

• Countries should not close borders or restrict international traffic and trade

• Intensify surveillance of unusual flu-like illness & severe pneumonia

With an updated third recommendation, namely:

• If ill, it is prudent to delay travel.

As pandemic infections are now widespread, there is no longer a scientific reason to delay international travel to reduce the spread of infection, said the WHO. However, it remains prudent for ill travellers to delay travel for personal health reasons.

As of November 22, 2009, more than 207 countries worldwide had reported laboratory confirmed cases of pandemic influenza, including over 7820 deaths.

The WHO issued the following situation update:

In temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, the early arriving winter influenza season continues to be intense across parts of North America and much of Europe. In North America, the Caribbean islands and a limited number of European countries there are signs that disease activity peaked.

In the United States and Canada, influenza transmission remains very active and geographically widespread. In the United States, disease activity appears to have peaked in all areas of the country. In Canada, influenza activity remains similar but number of hospitalisations and deaths is increasing. Most countries in the Caribbean have ILI and SARI levels coming down.

In Europe, widespread and increasing transmission of pandemic influenza virus was observed across much of the continent and most countries that were not yet experiencing elevated ILI activity in the last few weeks, have seen a rapid increase in ILI. Very high activity is seen in Sweden, Norway, Moldova and Italy. Over 99% of subtyped influenza A viruses in Europe were pandemic H1N1 2009. Impact on health care services is severe in Albania and Moldova. Some countries seem to have peaked already: Belgium, Bulgaria, Belarus, Ireland, Luxemburg, Norway, Serbia, Ukraine and Iceland.

In East Asia, influenza transmission remains active. Intense influenza activity continues to be observed in Mongolia but has peaked already. In Japan, influenza activity remains stably elevated, but may be decreasing slightly in populated urban areas.

ILI activity in India and Nepal and Sri Lanka has increased.

In the tropical zone of the Americas and Asia, influenza transmission remains variable but low in many countries. In the tropical areas of Central and South America, most countries continue to report declining influenza activity, with the exception of Ecuador and Venezuela.