Saturday, June 5, 2010

The H1N1 Virus: The Audacity Of Hype... Part 2

Last January, we first wrote about the tremendously over-hyped "Swine Flu"  The irresponsible handling of this virus has now ensnared the World Health Organization (WHO).

European criticism of the WHO's handling of the H1N1 pandemic intensified yesterday with the release of two reports that accused the agency of exaggerating the threat posed by the virus and failing to disclose possible influence by the pharmaceutical industry on its recommendations for how countries should respond.

The WHO's response caused widespread, unnecessary fear and prompted countries around the world to waste millions of dollars, according to one report.  At the same time, the Geneva-based arm of the United Nations relied on advice from experts with ties to drug makers in developing the guidelines it used to encourage countries to stockpile millions of doses of antiviral medications, according to the second report.

A spokesman for the WHO, along with several independent experts, however, strongly disputed the reports, saying they misrepresented the seriousness of the pandemic and the WHO's response, which was carefully formulated and necessary given the potential threat.

The second report criticized 2004 guidelines developed by the WHO which were based in part on the advice of three experts who received consulting fees from the two leading manufacturers of antiviral drugs used against the virus, Roche and GlaxoSmithKline.

Despite the proclamations from the WHO, H1N1 has been a non-event with the exception of the extraordinary attention received by the media and public health organizations, such as the Center For Disease Control (CDC). 

What is a pandemic?  There is no official "death toll" criteria, but it is generally thought of as an epidemic over a widespread area.  To some extent, H1N1 qualfies, but if we look at some statistics, we can see that the "swine flu" was really nothing.

There are several excellent precedents for flu pandemics.  The "Spanish Flu" pandemic lasted from March 1918 to June 1920, spreading even to the Arctic and remote Pacific Islands.  Between 50 and 100 million died, making it the deadliest natural disaster in human history.  There were less deadly outbreaks of various flus in 1968-69 and 1957-58, from which 1 million and 2 million people died, respectively.  So how does "Swine Flu" rate?  The WHO estimates 18,000 deaths worldwide, of which 12,500 have occured here in the United States. 

To put 18,000 in perspective, that represents about 5% of all annual influenza deaths.  For the United States, the Swine Flu was responsible for less than 20% of all influenza-related deaths last year which are believed to be approximately 66,000. What pandemic?

The WHO was equally irresponsible in its predictions of deaths from the "Avian Flu", also known as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).  That flu was predicted to kill 750 million people.  To date 744 deaths worldwide and NONE in the United States.  Oops!  Only exaggerated by 1 million times!

The United States has reportedly spent more than $1 billion to procure vaccines.  While no official count exists, the vaccine itself has proven deadly to some people who have taken it.  Sweden, however, has looked into the efficacy of the vaccine in some detail.

There have been more than 350 reports of vaccine side-effects reported to the Swedish government.  It is reported by, a Swedish health organization, that side effects are more common with the swine flu vaccine compared to the regular flu vaccine. 

Unfortunately, both the WHO and CDC must justify their funding and existence based on the need to monitor and control deadly inflectious viruses.  This gives them an incentive to dramatically over-hype any possible concerns about an outbreak.  Still think the government should run healthcare as in Obamacare?

Marko's Take

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  1. Please check this link out:

    I believe some hard working people here are showing just how uncertain the outcome of the H1N1 pandemic will be.

    Things don't have to go as "planned" to turn out badly in the end. H1N1 has all the time in the world and, apparently, a reservoir of unlimited supply within which to work. And H5N1 is still lurking about. Time will tell.

    Great blog.

  2. Hi Anon:

    Thanks! I did check out the link. My impression is that, under its current state, swine flu is a non-event. However, it could always mutate into a stronger strain.



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