It is too early to say that the H1N1 influenza pandemic has peaked, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

A meeting of the agency’s emergency committee on the global swine flu situation this week concluded that there has been no change in the pandemic phase, and that the situation and developments should continue to be closely monitored, with the Committee reconvening in a few weeks’ time, WHO director general Margaret Chan has reported.

There is currently mixed evidence about how the pandemic is progressing, with declining or low activity in many countries but new community level transmission activity in West Africa, the Committee reported on Wednesday (February 23. Moreover, given that the winter months of the Southern Hemisphere have yet to start, “additional generalized waves of activity might occur,” and the Committee was emphatic that preparations must not be undermined.

It is premature to conclude that all parts of the world have experienced peak transmission of H1N1, and extra time and information is needed to provide advice on the status of the pandemic, the experts said.

Dr Chan also announced that the three current temporary International Health Regulation (IHR) recommendations now in place to deal with public health emergencies of international concern – that countries should not close borders or restrict international traffic and trade, that they should maintain surveillance of unusual flu-like illness and severe pneumonia and advise that, if a person is ill, it is prudent not to travel – should therefore continue.

The WHO has come in for strong criticism of its handling of the pandemic, but many experts this week praised the agency’s actions, given the amount of information it had had available and the rate at which the virus had spread, and they also welcomed its continuing caution.

However, some experts including Lone Simonsen, Research Director in the Department of Global Health at George Washington University in the US, have suggested that the WHO could improve public perception in the future by working with pandemic scientific advisors who have no conflict of interest with pharmaceutical companies, according to a report in the UK Independent newspaper.