Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pandemic or Pandemonium?

I just read this article about the World Health Organization’s response to accusations that the swine flu pandemic of 2009 was a hoax designed to increase profits for pharmaceutical companies.

Of course the WHO denies any wrongdoing. They maintain that the number of reported cases of swine flu worldwide qualifies as a pandemic, regardless of how many deaths occurred. I supposed based on dictionary definition, it was a pandemic. Whether or not the widespread panic that accompanied it was necessary or not is anyone’s guess.

I know people who became seriously ill from swine flu, so I’m not minimizing its severity, but I have to say I’m not surprised by the accusations made in the article. To me it seems odd that a disease which had people all over the world wearing surgical masks in public just a few months ago suddenly seems to be getting so much less attention. Is the pandemic over or at least in remission for now?

I wonder if this is because millions of people have received vaccinations, thus halting the spread of the virus. Or is it because the severity of the epidemic was exaggerated in order to increase demand for the vaccine?

People die from influenza every year. There’s no debating it’s a deadly illness and those with already compromised immune systems are especially at risk, but I wonder if it really benefits society to inflate the risk of a disease in order to insure more people take precautions against spreading it. Did the WHO and the media really do the world a service by terming the swine flu spread to be a pandemic and increasing not only awareness of the disease but fear of it, or did they ultimately only do the vaccine manufacturers a service? The efficacy of the swine flu vaccine is still under debate, and the regular flu season isn’t quite over yet, so are we right to still be afraid or are we right to be skeptical?

1 comment:

  1. I know that my friend who had the worst case of swine flu (yesterday she was telling me how she'd just had a conversation with the priest who'd given her last rites and how surreal it was)would not have gone to the hospital when she did if it weren't for the attention swine flu had been getting and she'd probably be dead now, so my inclination is to say that an overabundance of caution fueled by the media saved her life.

    I think it's more a case of the WHO covering their butts. If the pandemic had been worse they would have caught flack for not doing more to warn people. And it might have been worse, less people vaccinated, more people going to work sick, etc. if they hadn't scared people.

    Of course somebody profited off the panic, but that doesn't mean that doing so was such a bad thing imho.