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World Health Organization Orders Swine Flu Probe

April 12, 2010

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a probe into the handling of the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, studying response to the outbreak to find out what worked and what did not work in order to better apply those lessons to future global medical emergencies, according to Monday media reports.

According to the WHO, the United Nations health agency, H1N1 was the first flu pandemic in over four decades and killed more than 17,000 people in 200 counties.

However, according to an April 12 article by Reuters, “Critics have said that the WHO created panic about the new flu virus, which turned out to be moderate in its effect, and caused governments to stockpile vaccines which went unused.”

Thus, over the next three days, a 29-person panel of health experts will meet in Geneva and investigate the handling of the 2009 influenza outbreak in what WHO Director-General Margaret Chan is calling an “independent, credible and transparent” review.

“We want to know what worked well. We want to know what went wrong and, ideally, why,” Chan told the review board members, who represent 28 countries, on Monday. “We want to know what can be done better and, ideally, how.”

In the United States, between 81 and 91 million of the 229 million doses of H1N1 vaccine purchased by the government have been distributed to date, according to an April 1 Washington Post report. Of those remaining, 60 million will be donated to underprivileged countries or stored for future use, but that leaves more than 71 million that have already been placed in vials or syringes and will need to be used or disposed of before their expiration dates.

“Did we do as well as we would have liked to? No, not at all,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) representative Anne Schuchat told reporter Rob Stein. “But the country did an extraordinary job of responding.”

“It’s pretty incredible to think about how much uncertainty we had at the beginning of this,” she added. “We were dealing with a very unusual situation. We had a pandemic. We had young people being killed. We wanted to make sure we had enough. We didn’t want to be short. It was important to us to be able to protect the American people.”

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