CANADA: Flu rating system faulty: experts
Posted: August 31st, 2009 - 4:56pm
Source: Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA -- As the world waits for the second wave of the H1N1 swine flu, two Canadian infectious disease experts say the World Health Organization’s pandemic alert system has failed and must be revamped.
The WHO’s alert system determines when a flu outbreak or epidemic has turned into a worldwide pandemic, and allows governments and public health agencies to respond appropriately to protect people.
But Dr. Brian Ward and Dr. Michael Libman, both of McGill University, say swine flu has exposed a major weakness in the rating system that must be fixed: the failure to articulate a real sense of the gravity of the flu outbreak, and how much of a public danger it really is.
“All the WHO criteria were based on spread and geography without any indication of severity … and what happened was that they were caught with an inadequate system of classification,” says Ward, associate director of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.
Libman agrees, saying there is growing recognition among experts that some changes have to be made.