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Lessons learned from the 2009–2010 H1N1 pandemic

Avicenna Journal of Medicine
Medknow Publications
Publication Date
  • Commentary
  • Education
  • Medicine
  • Political Science


Attendance in ATS May, 2009 in San Diego was lower than expected. That was because in late March 2009, an outbreak of H1N1 influenza A virus infection was detected in Mexico with subsequent cases observed in many other countries including the United States.[1] In Syria, since April, measures were taken in compliance with the World Health Organization policies. Diagnostic tools, treatments and isolation equipments were made available in special hospitals and medical centers. In May 2009, a joint nationwide educational campaign was launched. Leaders from the local Syrian American Medical Association (SAMA), WHO, and government agencies established an H1N1 influenza pandemic task force for education and training. Training courses for a large number of health care workers including intensive care units (ICU) physicians and nurses were conducted over wide geographic areas within the country. It was a hard task to do. We had to go back to the basics touching so many areas that were overlooked by the health care system over the years. As the Head of SAMA, and an academic trainer, I thought that was the most challenging national task I have ever faced. We were watching the world and learning from others’ experience. In June 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised its pandemic alert level to the highest level, phase 6, indicating widespread community transmission on at least two continents.[2] The pandemic was declared to be over in August 2010. This pandemic was caused by H1N1 influenza A virus that represents a quadruple reassortment of two swine strains, one human strain, and one avian strain of influenza; the largest proportion of genes came from swine influenza virus. Obviously, we learned that this was not the first “swine flu” in human history. Illness with influenza in pigs was first recognized during the influenza pandemic of 1918 to 1919, and a swine influenza virus was first isolated from a human in 1974, and caused the first fatality in New Jersey in 1976.[3] Betwe

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