5.08.2009

The flu leaves us with a wake-up call [A Biased Appraisal by Henry I. Miller]

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-oped0508flumay08,0,1653211.story

http://www.acsh.org/imgLib/20061102_trustee_miller.jpg
Just when concerns about H5N1 avian flu seemed to give way to other worries -- especially the flagging economy -- a new strain of H1N1 swine flu swept into our consciousness. Its most recent predations, and the responses to them, led virtually every newscast for two weeks.
[...]
Characteristically, pronouncements from the World Health Organization, an agency of the highly politicized and self-serving UN, have not been reassuring. Most flu and public health experts consider that their decision last week to raise the pandemic flu threat to the penultimate Level 5, "Pandemic Imminent," far outpaced the data and was alarmist and unwarranted. The "imminence" of a pandemic has pushed governmental authorities and individuals into unwise decisions: unnecessary school, business and event closings and purchases of anti-flu drugs on the Internet -- as often as not, a source of counterfeits. But flawed decision-making is typical of the WHO, an organization that is scientifically mediocre, unaccountable and self-serving, and whose policy role should be limited. [Why?]
[...]
Although pandemic strains of flu often are both qualitatively and quantitatively much worse than the seasonal flu viruses, the H1N1 virus causing the current outbreak seems to be relatively benign. Except for Mexico (for reasons that remain unclear), illnesses have generally been mild, hospitalizations few, and mortality minimal. Where are we, then, after about two weeks of accumulated knowledge and widespread publicity about the outbreak? For one thing, we're bedeviled by cost-benefit decisions of all sorts. Only hindsight will pick the winners and losers, but it appears that U.S. public health officials -- particularly those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health -- have acted with appropriate judgment and restraint: They continue to accumulate, analyze and disseminate information and to offer advice to the public and health professionals. They are preparing for a worsening of the situation but are not overreacting. They have made testing kits widely available around the country and abroad. Their research laboratories are working around the clock, performing sequencing and other analyses of swine flu isolates, and they are preparing contingency plans should the situation change suddenly. Perhaps most important, they are not making dubious, alarmist pronouncements. [Really?? So it's just an illusion created by the media? Geez....]

*Henry I. Miller, M.S., M.D., is a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. A physician, molecular biologist and former flu researcher[?], he headed the Food and Drug Administration Office of Biotechnology from 1989 to 1993. [In other words, Mr. Miller joined the Food and Drug Administration in 1979 and served in a number of posts. He was the medical reviewer for the first genetically engineered drugs evaluated by the FDA and was instrumental in the rapid licensing (Meaning, without following the proper protocols for licensing...don't forget who were the presidents during the time Miller was in the FDA) of human insulin and human growth hormone. Thereafter, he was a special assistant to the FDA commissioner, with responsibility for biotechnology issues, and from 1989 to 1993 was the founding director of the FDA's Office of Biotechnology. During his government service, Miller participated frequently on various expert and policy panels as a representative of the FDA or the U.S. government. Miller was short-listed in 2006 by the editors of Nature Biotechnology as one of the personalities who had made the "most significant contributions" to biotechnology during the previous 10 years. Miller serves on numerous editorial boards and is an adjunct scholar at several thinktanks...Scary credentials, knowing what we know today]
For the entire article, go to chicagotribune.com

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