The Reveres have written many posts about the World Health Organization in five years. Some just reported on their activities, others, as seemed appropriate, were critical or praised them. WHO operates in a difficult landscape under rules of engagement not well suited to fighting an enemy that recognizes neither national borders nor national sovereignties and one might question this intergovernmental agency’s relevance given those constraints. But we have always bridled at accusations WHO acted unethically or incompetently, neither of which is true. WHO does a difficult job with just a fraction of the budget of many national agencies and mostly ithem well. Nasty and mean spirited accusations now being hurled by ignorant and self-aggrandizing members like the head of health of the Council of Europe, Wolfgang Wodarg, who charges WHO with pimping for the drug cartel, are so stupid one wonders why anyone would take him seriously. But apparently some wearers of tin foil hats take him seriously enough that WHO felt it necessary to issue a statement defending its honor:
Additional allegations that WHO created a ‘fake’ pandemic to bring economic benefit to industry are scientifically wrong and historically incorrect.
- Lab analyses showed that this influenza virus was genetically and antigenically very different from other influenza viruses circulating among people
- Epidemiological information provided by Mexico, the US and Canada demonstrated person-to-person transmission.
- Clinical information, especially from Mexico, indicated this virus also could cause severe disease and death. At the time, those reports did not indicate a pandemic situation, but taken together sent a very strong warning to WHO and other public health authorities to be ready for one.
- As the pandemic evolved, clinicians identified a very severe form of primary viral pneumonia, which was rapidly progressive and frequently fatal, that is not part of the disease pattern seen during seasonal influenza. While these cases were relatively rare, they imposed a heavy burden on intensive care units.
- Geographical spread was exceptionally rapid.
- On 29 April 2009, WHO reported lab confirmed cases in 9 countries.
- About 6 weeks later, on 11 June, WHO reported cases in 74 countries and territories in more than two WHO regions. It is this global spread which led WHO to call for increasing phases and finally, to announce that a pandemic was underway.
- By 1 July, infections had been confirmed in 120 countries and territories.
The world is going through a real pandemic. The description of it as a fake is wrong and irresponsible. We welcome any legitimate review process that can improve our work. (WHO statement)
Just so. The influenza pandemic appeared in a form that surprised everyone and like just about everyone WHO managed some things well and some things less well. That’s the nature of major disease outbreaks and with influenza, one of the most unpredictable diseases of all, nothing is assured. Planning for the worst is the only responsible course of action. But all of this is well known.
WHO is handicapped in many ways, not the least being it must obey certain standards of public and diplomatic decorum. We don’t have those constraints so we are free to say what’s really on our mind about this and here it is:
Wolfgang Wodarg is a flaming asshole.