News / Health

WHO Reviews H1N1 Flu Pandemic

Lisa Schlein

The World Health Organization is starting a review process Monday to examine the world's response to the H1N1 Flu pandemic.   A committee composed of 29 independent experts from around the world will be meeting between April 12 and 14 to take stock of what has been done and what needs to be done in future pandemics.

It has been one year since the H1N1 influenza virus was first detected.  Since then, many questions have been raised regarding the world's handling of the pandemic.

WHO Special Adviser on Pandemic Influenza Keiji Fukuda says the expert committee will examine the adequacy of that response.  

"The bottom line for the process is to identify lessons learned, to identify what the world needs to do including countries and organizations like WHO to be better prepared and also to respond to future pandemics and to future large-scale global public health events," said Fukuda.  

The World Health Organization has been criticized for allegedly exaggerating the dangers of the H1N1 virus under pressure from drug companies.  Some governments have suggested drug companies influenced public health officials to spend money unnecessarily on stockpiles of H1N1 vaccines.  

Dr. Fukuda refutes these charges.  He says he expects countries to air these and other concerns during the review committee meeting.  He says he considers the Review process to be timely for this and other reasons.    

"One of them is that we do not know when the pandemic itself is going to be over," added Fukuda. "However, we are now about a year into the pandemic and I think there is a lot of experience, which has been accumulated.  And, in addition, we want to conduct - at least begin the review process at a time when the memories are fresh - when the experience is fresh, the memories are fresh.  So, for those reasons, this seems to be a relatively good time to start it."  

The World Health Organization says more than 213 countries have reported more than 17,700 laboratory confirmed deaths of pandemic influenza H1N1.  It says the virus is circulating most actively in parts of Southeast Asia, West Africa, and in the tropical zone of the Americas.

The review process is expected to continue for many months.  This first review meeting will set the agenda for what follows.  WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan, will report to the World Health Assembly in May about the preliminary results of the review.  A final report will be ready next year.

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