Archive for the ‘WHO’ Category

Flu Overhyped? Normal Season Kills 36,000 in USA, Only Two Died This Go Round

May 7, 2009

Did government health officials “cry swine” when they sounded the alarm on what looked like a threatening new flu?

The so-far mild swine flu outbreak has many people saying all the talk about a devastating global epidemic was just fear-mongering hype. But that’s not how public health officials see it, calling complacency the thing that keeps them up at night.

By AP Medical Writers Lindsey Tanner And Mike Stobbe
.
The World Health Organization
added a scary-sounding warning Thursday, predicting up to 2 billion people could catch the new flu if the outbreak turns into a global epidemic.

Many blame such alarms and the breathless media coverage for creating an overreaction that disrupted many people’s lives.

Schools shut down, idling even healthy kids and forcing parents to stay home from work; colleges scaled back or even canceled graduation ceremonies; a big Cinco de Mayo celebration in Chicago was canned; face masks and hand sanitizers sold out — all because of an outbreak that seems no worse than a mild flu season.

“I don’t know anyone who has it. I haven’t met anyone who knows anyone who contracted it,” said Carl Shepherd, a suburban Chicago video producer and father of two. “It’s really frightening more people than it should have. It’s like crying wolf.”

Two weeks after news broke about the new flu strain, there have been 46 deaths — 44 in Mexico and two in the United States. More than 2,300 are sick in 24 countries, including more than 800 U.S. cases. Those are much lower numbers than were feared at the start based on early reports of an aggressive and deadly flu in Mexico.

Miranda Smith, whose graduation ceremony at Cisco Junior College in central Texas was canceled to avoid spreading the flu, blames the media.

“It’s been totally overblown,” she said Thursday.

“Everyone seems to know it’s not going to kill you and it’s not as deadly as they think,” she said. “Everybody needs to just calm down and chill out.”

Craig Heyl of Decatur, Ga., said the government overreacted.

“Swine flu is just another strain of flu. People get the flu. I guess you have to call it a pandemic when it’s a widespread virus, but I don’t think the severity of it is all that concerning,” said Heyl, 43.

Public health authorities acknowledge their worst fears about the new virus have not materialized. But no one’s officially saying it’s time to relax. And experts worry that people will become too complacent and tune out the warnings if the virus returns in a more dangerous form in the fall.

“People are taking a sigh of relief too soon,” said Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, Besser said the outbreak in the United States appears to be less severe than was first feared. But the virus is still spreading and its future potential as a killer is not clearly understood.

“The measures we’ve been talking about — the importance of handwashing, the importance of covering coughs, the real responsibility for staying home when you’re sick and keeping your children home when you’re sick — I’m afraid that people are going to say, ‘Ah, we’ve dodged a bullet. We don’t need to do that,'” Besser said.

“The thing that’s keeping me up right now is that feeling of dodging the bullet,” he added.

Peter Sandman, a risk communication specialist, says on his Web site that reminding people the risk is still real and warning them in the future if a pandemic looks imminent “will be extremely difficult.”

“Swine flu looks to be an extremely mild pandemic if it goes pandemic at all, despite WHO warnings that it may ‘come back with a vengeance’ in the fall. People are going to be very, very skeptical,” Sandman wrote.

That concern is shared by infectious disease specialists. But elsewhere, especially online, talk of hype is rampant.

“If I hear 1+ person freaking out because of the “Swine Flu” they won’t have 2 worry about dying from it. I will kill them w/ my handbag!” read a comment Wednesday on Twitter.

“Adults are acting like a bunch of crybabies in a B-rated science fiction germ-outbreak movie, wringing their hands, whining about what to do next,” Dallas Morning News reader Mark Thompson wrote in a letter to the editor posted online Wednesday.

Kari Carsey Valente of Lake Oswego, Ore., had similar thoughts in a letter on the Oregonian newspaper’s Web site.

“Is the daily front page body count really necessary? In reading the entire content of the collected articles one learns that the H1N1 strain is not likely to be more lethal than its predecessors. Give it a rest — and lots of liquid!,” Valente wrote.

Colt Ables, 22, an economics major at the University of Texas in Arlington, said he thinks the Obama administration overreacted and unfairly tried to make it seem as if Republicans have been soft on preparedness.

“This shouldn’t be about politics or about hyping up a virus to send the American people into a panic. Do yourself a favor, wash your hands and turn off the TV,” he wrote in a campus newspaper column.

Whether the media overhyped or accurately reported the dangers is a toss-up, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll published Thursday on Americans’ views of the media’s flu coverage.

The May 5 poll also found that concern about the flu peaked a week ago. But even then, only 25 percent of Americans said they worried about getting the virus.

Dr. Robert Daum, a University of Chicago infectious disease expert, says authorities acted properly when news first broke about the new flu strain.

“It’s like overcalling a snowstorm in Chicago. You want the plows out even if it’s only going to snow a flake,” Daum said. If not, and a blizzard hits, “there will be an outcry like you’ve never seen before.”

Still, Daum says authorities have been a bit awkward in “downshifting” now that it appears the U.S. situation isn’t dire.

“I think it was right to place everyone on high alert, and now right” to say it’s time to calm down, Daum said.

___

Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner reported from Chicago and Medical Writer Mike Stobbe reported from Atlanta.

Related:
Flu: Fear and The Media (Not Great Medical Advice) Sparking Strict New Measures in Mexico?
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Obama’s Health Care Reform a Panacea For Voters in Jobless Recovery?
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U.S. Government Overstates Flu Dangers, Now Worries Public May Ignore More Real Disease Threat
.
Flu: Lessons we have to learn
.
Global Government Alert: WHO wants countries to justify swine flu measures
.
Sebelius: “Don’t trust me, trust the government” on health care

Flu: Fear and The Media (Not Great Medical Advice) Sparking Strict New Measures in Mexico?

May 7, 2009

Mexican office workers are being forced to sit six feet apart and cinemas must allow a spare seat either side of each customer as tough new regulations are imposed after the peak of the swine flu outbreak.

By Ioan Grillo in Mexico City
Telegraph (UK)

After a five-day swine flu shutdown, in which Mexico City’s population of 20 million was told to stay at home, life is beginning to return to normal after 42 people died from the virus.

Cafes serving sizzling, spicy tacos have reopened their swing doors and schoolchildren returned to their desks. But they had to contend with tough new rules to limit infections of the H1N1 virus.

Restaurants could only seat 50 per cent of their capacity and all staff, from waitresses to cashiers, had to wear surgical facemasks, while office-based companies were urged not to have meetings. In theatres and cinemas, not only did a spare seat have to be allowed for on each side of a customer, but also in the rows in front and behind.

“It’s all a bit surreal,” said Claudia Bernal, 39, being served a chili and egg breakfast by a waiter in a blue mask. “We are used to crowded places and hustle and bustle. This is a like a different city.”

Some of the new rules signalled marked improvements. In the normally grimy subway system, cleaners in blue overalls rushed around cleaning everything from train seats to ticket machines and offering customers hand-cleaning gel.

A man wears a face mask adorned with a skull

But Mercurio Cruz, the manager of an Argentine-style steak house, said that losing half of his customers will annihilate his profits.

“I’m just opening so I can keep paying my staff. But I won’t make any money,” he said. “The government has to relax these rules soon.”

With both industry and tourism hard hit, Mexico’s finance minister has estimated losses from swine flu and its consequences at $2.3 billion (£1.5 billion).

Read the rest:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/swi
ne-flu/5292205/Swine-flu-Mexico-impo
ses-tough-new-rules.html

Flu: Lessons we have to learn

May 7, 2009

NOW that the H1N1 swine-flu outbreak appears to be waning, it’s time to draw important lessons from what happened.

First, the pronouncements from the World Health Organization, a United Nations agency, were disappointing. Most flu and public-health experts consider the WHO’s decision last week to raise the pandemic flu threat to Level 5, “Pandemic Imminent,” to have been alarmist and unwarranted.

The “imminence” of a pandemic pushed governments and individuals into unwise, drastic decisions: unnecessary school, business and event closings and purchases of anti-flu drugs on the Internet (as often as not, a source of counterfeits). Many media images showed people wearing the wrong kinds of masks: Those with pores small enough to filter out flu virus are “N95 respirators,” used for working around fiberglass or wood dust.

But flawed decision-making is typical of the WHO, a scientifically mediocre, unaccountable and self-serving organization whose leadership is based on a kind of international affirmative action instead of merit. The WHO may be well-equipped to perform and report worldwide surveillance, but its policy role should be limited.

Second, the media were for the most part unhelpful. Applying the ethic “If it bleeds, it leads,” they hyped the story breathlessly, omitting necessary context….

Read the rest:

http://www.nypost.com/seven/05072009/postop
inion/opedcolumnists/swine_flu_hysteria__w
ho_dunnit_167991.htm

U.S. Government Overstates Flu Dangers, Now Worries Public May Ignore More Real Disease Threat

May 7, 2009

Here is just one thing not to like about more government involvement in health care: a loud government agency gets in the news and a loud government agency gets the attention of Congress and that equates to more money.

What would the U.S. defense budget have been without the fear of the Soviet Union and a nuclear war?  What happened to the pentagon budget after 9/11?

That same kind of yelling “look out for the illness” we just went through has already meant there’s yelling already: “the next illness will be worse.”

True or not, when the guy yelling can get more money from Congress his rationale for all the yelling will become shadowed in doubt.  And there is already too much distrust in government without scaring people so early that they ignore the real scare later on….

The WHO and CDC overreacted to the flu scare because there is lots of doubt and danger in understanding new diseases.  But managing the media and guys like Joe Biden in such situations is next to impossible: which results in China taking all Mexicans and putting them in quarantine….

In Mexico, the average person’s trust in his government and the government run health care system is nearing zero.  Once the U.S. government becomes a lynchpin in medical care; don’t expect trust in government or health care to rise for long….

Related:
Why so many flu deaths in Mexico? Lack of trust in government is a big factor….

Sebelius: “Don’t trust me, trust the government” on health care
.
Flu: Lessons we have to learn
.
Global Government Alert: WHO wants countries to justify swine flu measures

http://michellemalkin.com/2009/0
5/07/obamas-budget-cutting-tools/

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By Matthew Bigg
Reuters

The U.S. public could become more vulnerable to a flu pandemic if complacency about the need for heightened vigilance sets in, health experts said on Wednesday.

Those concerns would escalate if the H1N1 virus that has killed two people in the United States and made 642 others sick mutates into a more virulent form by the start of the traditional flu season in the fall.

In all, there are 1,516 confirmed cases of the swine flu virus in 22 countries, according to the U.N. World Health Organization.

But in the United States fear about flu appears to have subsided since the epidemic came to public attention more than two weeks ago because many cases appear to be mild. The U.S. public could become more vulnerable to a flu pandemic if complacency about the need for heightened vigilance sets in, health experts said on Wednesday.

Those concerns would escalate if the H1N1 virus that has killed two people in the United States and made 642 others sick mutates into a more virulent form by the start of the traditional flu season in the fall.

In all, there are 1,516 confirmed cases of the swine flu virus in 22 countries, according to the U.N. World Health Organization.

But in the United States fear about flu appears to have subsided since the epidemic came to public attention more than two weeks ago because many cases appear to be mild.

Read the rest from Reuters:
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews
/newsdesk/N06283215.htm

Why so many flu deaths in Mexico? Lack of trust in government is a big factor….

May 7, 2009

Researchers will likely be asking for years why this last flu outbreak resulted in so many deaths in Mexico.

Trust in the government health system is already paramount as one factor.

Ask Mexicans about government health care and they’ll tell you: the service is erratic, undependable and often results in a total loss of trust among the people: especially the poor and weak who are most at risk.

The Obama health care reform is supposed to target ‘the most at risk” for the most improvement in care: but if other nations are any guide the amount of money spent doesn’t always equate to a huge improvement in health among those “most at risk.”

In seeking answers to the flu deaths in mexico, the New York Times sent Marc Lacey and Elisabeth Malkin to find answers.

“At overcrowded public facilities, they complain, they are often turned away, treated by indifferent doctors or made to wait endlessly,” they wrote.

These are the same complaints heard in Canada and Britain — where the government runs health care.

That is my experience with health services in Mexico — and canada and the UK.  There are lots of other reasons too why the health system is not acceptable in Mexico….

Like 30,000 or more schools without running water, a culture that favors home remedies and over the counter or herbal medicines and other factors.

But often the overcrowded state run system and a lack of public trust holds real improvements in health care back in Mexico…..

See Marc Lacey and Elisabeth Malkin from the New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05
/01/health/01oaxaca.html

Global Government Alert: WHO wants countries to justify swine flu measures

May 6, 2009

The World Health Organisation on Wednesday said it was asking countries that took “significantly different” measures to combat swine flu, such as restricting international travel, to justify their actions.

“Countries adopting measures which are significantly different or which interfere with international traffic must provide WHO with the public health rationale and relevant scientific information for these measures,” said Gregory Hartl, spokesman for the WHO.

Without specifying countries, Hartl added that the UN health agency had “begun the process of getting more information from a number of countries… on the public health rationale of their action”.

Amid the influenza A(H1N1) scare, some countries, including Argentina, Cuba, Ecuador, Peru and China, have suspended flights from Mexico, the epicentre of the outbreak.

China’s decision to quarantine Mexicans and suspend flights to and from Mexico has sparked a diplomatic uproar, with a chartered Mexican jet arriving in Beijing Wednesday to fly scores of its nationals home.

China has also banned imported pork from areas affected by swine flu, prompting a threat by Canada to file a complaint at the World Trade Organisation.

Read the rest from AFP:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090506/hl_afp/healthfluw
hotravel4th;_ylt=Au5VAd72JefNbJ3nFU020Bms0NUE
;_ylu=X3oDMTJvdWdraTJhBGFzc2V0A2FmcC8yMD
A5MDUwNi9oZWFsdGhmbHV3aG90cmF2ZWw0dG
gEY3BvcwM1BHBvcwMxMwRzZWMDeW5fdG9wX
3N0b3J5BHNsawN3aG93YW50c2NvdW4

http://michellemalkin.com/2009/05/06/fli
p-flop-white-house-to-release-a-photo-o
f-scare-force-one-flyover/

Was the Alarm over Swine Flu Justified?

May 4, 2009

Like a patient suffering from a particularly tenacious case of, well, the flu, the H1N1 virus seemed to gain ground and lose it over the weekend, leaving health officials still cautious, but hopeful that the disease might be on the wane. The number of confirmed infections continues to rise, with the World Health Organization (WHO) reporting 898 infections in 18 countries as of May 3, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tallying 226 confirmed cases in 30 states. The continuing spread led Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to predict on Sunday that the WHO might soon raise its pandemic alert level from phase 5 to the highest stage, phase 6, which would indicate that a full flu pandemic was underway. “The virus has arrived, I would say, in most of the country now,” said Anne Schuchat, the interim deputy director for science and public health at the CDC.

By Bryan Walsh
Time Magazine

 

But there have still been no deaths and few serious cases reported outside Mexico – and even there, in the epicenter of the H1N1 outbreak, officials reported that the spread has slowed. As labs slogged through the backlog of suspected H1N1 flu cases, the number of confirmed cases and deaths dropped precipitously, indicating that the initial outbreak that so alarmed world health officials might not have been as serious as first feared. (See the top 5 swine-flu don’ts.)

 

As a global network of flu experts began to take a good look at the genetic structure of the new H1N1 virus, there were also indications that the bug might turn out to be little more dangerous than an average flu. Though scientists can’t say exactly what genes make a particular strain of the flu unusually deadly, all of the viruses that triggered pandemics over the past century – the catastrophic 1918 flu, but also the 1957 and 1968 pandemics – had a particular mutation in the gene that makes a protein called PB1-F2. The H1N1 swine-flu virus also seems to lack mutations that make the especially virulent H5N1 avian flu, which has killed more than half of the people with confirmed infections. (See pictures of how Mexico has been affected by swine flu.)

Read the rest from Times Magazine:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20090504/hl_time
/08599189556600;_ylt=AiYEdCZpOI2CYB5pAe
4NJxWs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTJoaXI5c2JmBGFzc
2V0A3RpbWUvMjAwOTA1MDQvMDg1OTkxO
Dk1NTY2MDAEY3BvcwMxBHBvcwMyBHN
lYwN5bl90b3Bfc3RvcnkEc2xrA3dhc3Ro
ZWFsYXJtbw

Flu Probably Past Worst Point: Big Government Saved Us? Not!

May 3, 2009

Does anybody get the feeling even without Joe Biden, Janet Napolitano and other government “experts” the flu we just went through would have been, well, the flu we just went through?

*****************************

MEXICO CITY, May 3 (Reuters) – Mexico announced on Sunday that its swine flu epidemic has passed the worst and experts said the new H1N1 virus might be no more severe than normal flu, although it could still impact on world health.

Mexican Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said the flu was easing but warned that it was too early for Mexico — the epicenter of an outbreak that has spread to 19 countries — to let down its guard.

The outbreak of H1N1 flu appeared to have peaked in Mexico between April 23 and 28 and fewer people had admitted themselves to hospitals with serious flu symptoms in the past few days, Cordova said.

“The evolution of the epidemic is now in its phase of descent,” he told a news conference in Mexico City, where millions of people heeded government advice to stay at home. “There is evidence that we are going downward.” MEXICO CITY, May 3 (Reuters) – Mexico announced on Sunday that its swine flu epidemic has passed the worst and experts said the new H1N1 virus might be no more severe than normal flu, although it could still impact on world health.

Mexican Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said the flu was easing but warned that it was too early for Mexico — the epicenter of an outbreak that has spread to 19 countries — to let down its guard.

A man wears a face mask adorned with a skull

The outbreak of H1N1 flu appeared to have peaked in Mexico between April 23 and 28 and fewer people had admitted themselves to hospitals with serious flu symptoms in the past few days, Cordova said.

“The evolution of the epidemic is now in its phase of descent,” he told a news conference in Mexico City, where millions of people heeded government advice to stay at home. “There is evidence that we are going downward.”

Read the rest:
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/
newsdesk/SP468702.htm

http://hotair.com/archives/2009/0
5/03/chris-wallace-to-napolitano
-and-sebelius-um-is-biden-a-crackpot/

***************************

WHO: You Can All Worry More As It Might Be BACK!

The head of the World Health Organisation hit back at critics who have accused it of over-reaction to the swine flu crisis, warning it may return “with a vengeance” in the months ahead.

In her first extensive media interview since alerting the world to a potential flu pandemic nine days ago, Margaret Chan, the agency’s director-general, told the Financial Times that the end of the flu season in the northern hemisphere meant an initial outbreak could be milder but then a second wave more lethal, as happened in 1918.

Read the rest:
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e6260d9
a-37d4-11de-9211-00144feabdc0.html

Related:
Flu Shows Why Government “Health Care” May Not Solve All Our Problems

Former Continental Airline CEO: Biden Over Reacting, Over Hyping Flu

April 30, 2009

Frank Lorenzo, the former CEO of Continental Airlines added his voice to a chorus of others today who were taken aback by Vice President Joe Biden’s claim that he would tell his family to stay off airplanes during the flu outbreak.

Lorenzo said Biden was “overreacting and overhyping.”

“If a person decides not to travel due to the risks, that is his issue,” said Lorenzo.

Lorenzo appeared on Fox News with Neil Cavuto during the 4 PM (Eastern) hour.

Earlier today White House spokesman Robert Gibbs had to answer questions about Biden’s gaffe and said, “What the Vice President meant to say was….

Janet Napolitano also tried to rescue Biden and said the best defense from the flu was to wash with soap and water.

Maybe she should wash the Veep’s mouth out with soap and water….

Related:
http://hotair.com/archives/2009/04/30/tapp
er-to-gibbs-can-you-clarify-bidens-moronic
-comment-about-subways/

Related:
Obama Must Be Lonely At The Top
.
 American Airlines: Biden “Fear Mongering” on Flu
.
Monkey See Monkey Do Doesn’t Work: Obama Says Wash Your Hands; Biden Says Stay Off Subways; NBC Says “Panic”
.
 Biden: Stay Off Subways During Swine Flu Panic (Actual NBC Headline)

Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference at ...

Gibbs: “What the Vice President meant to say…”

Monkey See Monkey Do Doesn’t Work: Obama Says Wash Your Hands; Biden Says Stay Off Subways; NBC Says “Panic”

April 30, 2009

IT’s THE FLU!

If the president had answered a question about the flu last night by saying, “Listen to the experts,” we might be O.K.

But the President didn’t have the wisdom to do that.  He told us all to wash our hands.

But now Joe “Lost Without the Teleprompter” Biden has told “Today” show viewers not to ride on subways until the flu passes —  and NBC ran with the headline calling the flu a “panic.”

It seems Biden would shut down the economy when the dog sneezed.

And suck up to Obama NBC would scare us all even more.

“Monkey see, monkey do” just isn’t going to work for Joe Biden.  And NBC should stick to news if it can recover its journalistic way….

Get a grip!

Related:
http://hotair.com/archives/2009/0
4/30/100-days-presser-the-nanny-state/

Biden: Stay Off Subways During Swine Flu Panic (Actual NBC Headline)

After 100 Days, Can Obama, the Media and Americans End the Childish Charade?

Weekly Standard on Obama’s 100 Day Presser
http://www.weeklystandard.com/we
blogs/TWSFP/2009/04/the_pres
ser_synopsized.asp

Michelle:
http://michellemalkin.com/2009/
04/30/biden-avoid-planes-and-
subways-but-not-really/