WHO Announces End to Swine Flu Pandemic, We All Breath a Sigh of Expectation

August 10, 2010

Photo courtesy: andrew wales

(ChattahBox) – I remember a year ago when everybody I knew was freaking out over the H1N1 flu. I actually had one friend accuse me of being a callous, unfit mother people I refused to give my kids the vaccine, based on statistics, facts and history, all of which meant nothing when faced with the sensationalism that is mainstream media. But now the panic is over, and it all seems a little annoyingly familiar.

The World Health Organization has officially named the H1N1 pandemic as over, and admitted that it was significantly less severe than they had originally believed it would be.

“We are now moving into the post-pandemic period. The new H1N1 virus has largely run its course,” WHO general director Margaret Chan told Reuters.

She also defended the decision to name is a pandemic and push the vaccine for a flu virus that ended up less deadly than the regular influenza virus. Chan said that she though the choice was “the right call”.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame the WHO for making the call they did, or creating the panic they did. I don’t think, like some have suggested, that it was a for-profit move based on the vaccine, or anything so sinister as that.

I think that is it the job of organizations like the WHO and the CDC to sometimes overreact to threats, especially one like a flu pandemic, which researchers have been terrified of for years. From the avian flu to the swine flu, they freak out and overestimate severity to prepare for any eventuality. The very fact that it was a global pandemic – even if not so severe – was plenty of reason for them to react the way they did.

The media also reacted in the way they are meant to. Though the actual likely number of deaths was going to be low, there was a high estimation given. Which would generate more interest, the high or the low? You could argue that it should be the job of the mainstream media to provide facts in a rational way, and you are probably right. But that has never been the way they work, and even less so now in a world of 24-hour news networks.

This is the reason that it is so important to educate yourself about all of the facts in the case of a state of emergency like this one. Once you have those facts, estimate the true likelihood of a personal disaster.

For example, I know several people who had swine flu, and I knew a whole lot of others who just had regular flu. None of them were hospitalized, none of them died, and they were just miserable for four or five days. This was the experience of the majority of people who caught the virus.

History has also shown pandemics just like this one, rushed vaccines, and severe consequences years later. That doesn’t mean we might not see the real thing in the future, but that we have to take stock of the situation we are in, and not jump the gun based on reports by agencies specifically designed to overreact, and sources made to sensationalize.

To my friend who was so convinced I was killing my children: I don’t give the regular flu vaccine either. My guess is they will be fine.


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