Thursday, January 21, 2010

WHO and accusations of a 'false pandemic'

This does not look like it will be pretty. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced this week that it plans to launch an investigation into the global response to the H1N1 pandemic. The organization interest in such an investigation is not neutral . The WHO has been accused in many quarters of overestimating the scope and impact of the pandemic, i.e. overselling the threat. The rhetoric of urgency emanating from the WHO was in counterpoint to relatively modest statistics in terms of mortality and morbidity. It does not help that major pharmaceutical companies are the chief beneficiaries of the rapid production and distribution of H1N1, since this obviously makes delicious fodder for conspiracy theorists. You can imagine how it goes: credulous populations living in fear of death, a fear whipped up by a respected international health body, a fear that can only be managed by purchasing pharmaceutical products in vast quantities.

For the moment, the WHO is sanguine on the subject. It has not said when they will start their investigation, suggesting this would be premature given that the pandemic is not over yet. According to one WHO spokesperson, the investigation is not meant as a (self-)criticism, but rather a means of (self-) improvement: if that tepid language is anything to go by, a hard-hitting report is not in the works. That sort of report, if appropriate, is likely to come from somewhere else. The Parlementary Assembly of the Council of Europe is making 'false pandemics' a major issue in its next plenary session. And if they don't turn over some interesting rocks, someone else surely will.

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Blogger Alok said...

The World Health Organization has said they have not changed the definition of pandemic during the course of the influenza A (H1N1) outbreak.

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