Statement by Commissioner Daines on WHO Decision Declaring H1N1 (Swine Flu) a Pandemic

Albany, New York (June 11, 2009) - Today's declaration by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak has reached the level of a global pandemic is based on the geographic spread of the virus and does not reflect an increase in the severity of the outbreak.

All of the response mechanisms required to respond to a pandemic have been activated in New York State since the beginning of the outbreak, so the WHO alert phase increase will not result in any changes in New York's strategy or response to H1N1.

When the outbreak was first identified in April, Governor David A. Paterson immediately activated the State's emergency response plan and the State began taking aggressive steps to respond to the H1N1 outbreak, based on the assumption that it would become a pandemic. In coordination with the CDC, local health departments and health care providers, the Department has been actively tracking the disease, implementing guidance and measures to mitigate the impact on public health, and informing and educating the public to limit transmission.

To date, the majority of affected individuals continue to experience mild to moderate symptoms similar to ordinary seasonal flu, and most New Yorkers have recovered without hospitalization or antiviral treatment. As with seasonal flu, there have been a number of hospitalizations and sadly, some fatalities, primarily involving individuals with underlying medical conditions. It's important to keep in mind that each year seasonal influenza is implicated in approximately 2,000 deaths in New York State and 36,000 deaths nationwide.

Over the summer months the Department's epidemiologists will continue to monitor the virus closely to quickly identify changes in trends and patterns, especially as it affects residents of the southern hemisphere. We will be watching to see if the virus acquires traits that make it more virulent and contagious when it returns to the U.S. next fall and winter, as many expect.

Pre-production work on an H1N1 vaccine is currently underway, and we are awaiting further details on vaccine strategy from the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's anticipated that a vaccine will be available by mid-fall and will be distributed through state health departments. The Department is preparing for a possible vaccine public education campaign and mass public vaccination events.

I urge all New Yorkers to continue to follow the common sense precautionary measures that we have recommended since this outbreak first began.

More information about H1N1 (swine flu) is available at:

  • http://www.nyhealth.gov/diseases/communicable/influenza/h1n1/