In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Michael Fumento: The WHO should just give up on the flu scare

Posted by seumasach on December 8, 2009

Michael Fumento

National Post

3rd December, 2009

The folks who dubbed the swine flu piglet a pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO), just won’t let up.

“It is too early to say whether there has yet been a peak in infections in the northern hemisphere,” Reuters paraphrased the WHO as saying, “and it will be some weeks before there is a downward trend in the numbers of those catching the virus.”

Wrong across the board for both Canada and the U.S.

In the U.S., flu deaths and hospitalizations have declined for the third straight week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Regarding Canada specifically, the WHO claims “influenza activity remains similar but [the] number of hospitalizations and deaths is increasing.” But Health Canada’s FluWatch website, updated weekly, begs to differ.

“All influenza indicators declined,” according to FluWatch, speaking of Nov. 27. Just what part of “all” doesn’t the WHO understand?

Specifically, the website states, “The number of deaths decreased slightly this week as well as the number of intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and number of hospitalizations.”

Logically, if U.S. and Canadian deaths, ICU admissions and hospitalizations are all down, and if you need to get infected with the flu before you can be sickened or die from it, then it’s hardly “too early” to say whether there’s “been a peak of infections,” is it?

As it happens though, both the U.S. and Canada have plenty of direct measurements of swine flu infection for the WHO to ignore. In the U.S., the number of swine flu infections that laboratories have detected has been dropping for four straight weeks and is 83% off its peak; in Canada, positive specimens are half what they were two weeks ago.

In the U.S., the number of states with “geographically widespread influenza activity” has gone from 48 to just 32, while in Canada, the number of regions “reporting widespread or localized influenza activity” has declined for two weeks in a row, says FluWatch. The vast majority of the country now has only “sporadic activity,” including half of Ontario and almost all of Quebec. Further the “overall number of influenza outbreaks” in Canadian schools and hospitals has fallen by over half in the last two weeks.

Yet somehow, despite all of this, the WHO doesn’t perceive a “downward trend.” Is it disregarding data in favour of feeling chicken entrails?

While we’re at it, whatever became of the WHO’s “pandemic” anyway? Until swine flu trotted in, pandemics were far deadlier than the yearly outbreaks of seasonal flu. Since seasonal flu ordinarily strikes all parts of the world, what other distinguishing feature should a flu pandemic have other than severity?

Yet swine flu, according to CDC estimates, is killing Americans at a rate that is one-third to one-12th that of seasonal flu. And that estimate is almost certainly too high. French figures, for example, are far lower as are those collected by New York City.

Every year in this country, 2,000 to 8,000 people die of flu, according to Health Canada. Swine flu, conversely, in the almost eight months since the outbreak began, has killed merely 138. Worldwide, WHO figures show fewer swine flu deaths in eight months than seasonal flu deaths every two weeks.

The WHO has been dishonest about swine flu from the very beginning. It’s used its phony pandemic to cover up its five-year scarefest over an avian flu pandemic that never came, to feed at the trough of greater power and a fatter budget, and even to call for redistribution of international wealth on the basis of values “like community, solidarity, equity and social justice,” in the words of its director.

There’s no motivation for the WHO to suddenly use that ubiquitous hand disinfectant and come clean.

National Post
fumento@pobox.com

Michael Fumento is director of the non-profit Independent Journalism Project, where he specializes in health and science issues.

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