Dr. Margaret Chan has been on the job at WHO for about a month. So far so good. Two weeks ago she named Dr. Anarfi Asamoa-Baah as WHO’s Deputy-Director General. I don’t know him, myself, but those who do (and whose judgment I trust) have nothing but the highest praise for him, describing him as “brilliant.” This is generally thought of as a wise and effective move. One appointment doesn’t make a successful tenure, but I’d rather be giving provisional approval than complaining about something.
Dr. Chan’s statements on bird flu, while not startling, are at least accurate. Monday she addressed WHO’s executive board and the bird flu part of her message came to this:
- the virus remains “out there” with the capability of changing to something very dangerous at any moment, but its behavior is impossible to predict
- there has been no let up; 2006 was the worst year since the virus reappeared in 2003
- control of the virus in the agricultural sector is years away; decades would probably have been more precise
- case fatality remains very high, reaching 70% last year, worse than previous years
- “The message is straightforward: we must not let down our guard” (AFP)
This summary seems all we can and should expect: recognition that the threat remains, has not diminished, is not under control now nor likely to be soon, case fatality catastrophic, and more needs to be done.
We have all seen organizations where headquarters says all the right things but the message doesn’t get out to the field. We’ll have to see how this view is implemented.
But so far, so good. Or at least a lot better than eyes rolled skyward while saying, “Give me a friggin’ break!” Maybe not the highest standard, but these days I’ll settle.