Influenza confusion

For years, scientists have warned that an influenza pandemic, similar to the 1918 Spanish flu, might cause a global catastrophe.

We will remember the 2009 H1N1 pandemic more for causing confusion than catastrophe.

Although the new H1N1 virus is dangerous for the young and for pregnant women, in otherwise healthy people it causes a disease no more severe than seasonal flu. Up till now, the new H1N1 virus eventually showed more weaknesses than strengths in the world’s ability to combat such a pandemic:

  1. The World Health Organization held lengthy debates about using the name “pandemic”.
  2. When the virus was discovered, it had been circulating in humans for months. It was thus too late to control its spread with quarantines and antiviral drugs.
  3. Regrettably, many countries began useless travel bans and quarantines.
  4. WHO used consultants from the influenza vaccine industry. Only after recommending on large-scale vaccine production, did the public learn about their conflict of interests.
  5. The predictions about the extent and timing of the epidemics were poor. And, some governments, for example in Norway, scared its population by telling them that thousands would die.

Nevertheless, the biggest wake-up call has been to develop and produce vaccines on a large-scale. Unfortunately, it came too little and too late, and was only available during the pandemic’s second wave.

Each country should now review what happened. If this pandemic might serve as a trial run for the vicious killer that may come one day, there might be some important lessons that we learned.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.