Pandemic has peaked in most of country

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The A/H1N1 flu pandemic has peaked in most parts of the country, top Chinese epidemiologists said yesterday, even as the World Health Organization (WHO) said the worst was not over internationally.

Since January, the Influenza B virus has replaced the A/H1N1 strain as the dominant flu virus in most parts of the Chinese mainland, including Beijing, He Xiong, deputy director of the Beijing Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), told China Daily yesterday.

But he said the nationwide A/H1N1 flu vaccination, which is free and optional, is still underway and has so far covered at least 78.3 million people.

"The pandemic featuring clusters of outbreaks is over, but the vaccinations will protect people from a possible strong return of A/H1N1 in the coming fall and winter seasons," he said.

China has recorded at least 671 A/H1N1 deaths by February 7, according to data from the Ministry of Health. The ministry stopped regular updating of its website from Feb 12.

Globally, while A/H1N1 prevalence is steadily declining in some parts, there is still high levels of activity in regions like West Africa, North Africa and parts of Southeast Asia, according to Vivian Tan, press officer of the WHO Beijing Office.

"By observing that A/H1N1 transmission has not yet peaked globally, we are advising countries to stay vigilant and be prepared for a possible local upsurge in new cases in the coming months. The flu virus is generally unstable, so we cannot predict how it will behave in the near future," she told China Daily yesterday.

The WHO recommends that vaccinations continue because it is one of the best defenses against A/H1N1 virus infection, especially for high-risk groups like pregnant women and people with chronic diseases.

"People should also get vaccinated in case there is another wave of infections," Tan said.

The A/H1N1 virus has been responsible for almost 16,000 deaths worldwide.

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