June 12, 2010

WHO: Over 18,000 Have Died From Swine Flu

According to the World Health organization on Friday, more than 18,000 people have died from the H1N1 swine flu, a year after it was declared a pandemic. The total death toll now stands at 18,156.

The virus is now "globally less active," UN health agency spokesman Gregory Haertl told AFP. He warned, though, that children and pregnant women should remain vigilant.

Haertl said that the swine flu figures are definitely "underestimated" and that it will probably be "several times" worse than that. "It is difficult to say what is the exact number," but the numbers should be known within a few years after the virus disappears, he added.

The WHO has been under fire in recent weeks, with a leading medical journal becoming the latest to challenge it earlier this month.

The British Medical Journal found that WHO guidelines on the use of antiviral drugs were prepared by experts who had received consulting fees from the top two makers of these drugs, Roche and GlaxoSmithKline.

But, the head of the WHO defended the agency, denying claims that commercial interests were an unethical factor in the way it handled the pandemic.

"At no time, not for one second, did commercial interests enter my decision-making," said Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO, in a letter sent to the British Medical Journal, following the article published by the BMJ.


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