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WHO Denies Hyping Dangers of Swine Flu

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The World Health Organization refutes charges by politicians in some European countries that it has exaggerated the dangers of Swine Flu.  The WHO also denies any of its decisions have been improperly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry for commercial reasons.

The World Health Organization has been clearly stung by these criticisms.  Special Adviser to the WHO Director-General on Pandemic Influenza, Keiji Fukuda says there is no truth to the allegations that the agency overplayed the severity of the pandemic.  

"I want to emphasize the world is going through a real pandemic.  The description of it as a fake is both wrong and is irresponsible.  The second point is that WHO has been balanced and truthful in the information it has provided to the public.  It has not underplayed and it has not overplayed the risks of a pandemic," he said.  

Fukuda says the allegation that H1N1 is not a pandemic is scientifically wrong and historically inaccurate.  He says when WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan, announced the pandemic last year, she said it would be of mild severity.

He notes about 13,000 people are believed to have been directly killed by the H1N1 influenza virus.  He adds this figure is likely to be considerably higher when the final estimate of the toll from H1N1 is made in the future.

He says the World Health Organization does not have a crystal ball and does not know how the disease will evolve.  He says WHO has always been very balanced and sober in providing its assessment.

"We have worked very hard to neither overplay nor underplay the situation.  And, we have worked very hard to try to reduce confusion rather than to create it," he said.. "Now, since we have always known and have repeatedly said that pandemics can range from mild to severe, we have also pointed out that severity can change in mid-stream.  And, given this situation, WHO and other responsible health authorities have adopted a precautionary approach.  That is we have tried to prepare everyone for the worst and to hope for the best," he added.

The World Health Organization says it has not been subject to any undue influence from pharmaceutical companies.  Dr. Fukuda says the organization has worked hard to make sure there is no conflict of interest when seeking advice.

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