March 10, 2011

Experts Release Report On UN’s Handling Of Swine Flu

A group of independent experts appointed by the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report on Thursday on the U.N. agency's handling of the H1N1 flu pandemic.

The experts rejected claims that the U.N. agency was influenced by commercial interest in its decision to declare a pandemic in the 2009 to 2010 flu season.

The draft report released by the agency found that a "lack of a sufficiently robust, systematic and open set of procedures for disclosing, recognizing and managing conflicts of interest among expert advisors" had contributed to suspicions about the organization's interests.

The experts said that the WHO failed to dispel confusion even in the most basic definition of what constituted a pandemic.

"One online WHO document described pandemics as causing 'enormous numbers of deaths and illness', while the official definition of a pandemic was based only on the degree of spread," they noted.

"When without notice or explanation, the WHO altered some of its online documents to be more consistent with its intended definition of a pandemic, the organization invited suspicion of a surreptitious shift in definition rather than an effort to make its descriptions of a pandemic more precise and consistent," they added.

There was a "lack of timely guidance in all official languages of WHO" and a "lack of a cohesive, overarching set of procedures and priorities for publishing consistent and timely technical guidance."

The group recommended that the agency "revise its pandemic preparedness guidance" in order to simplify the structure of different pandemic phases.

The report also said that the agency should assess the risks and severity of a pandemic. 

The H1N1 virus killed over 18,449 people and affected about 214 countries and territories since it was uncovered in Mexico and the U.S. in April 2009.

The swine flu swayed the U.N. health agency to declare a pandemic on June 11, 2009.  The WHO declared the pandemic over on August 10, 2010.


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