We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.

The full article is available here as HTML.

Press Ctrl-C to copy

The WHO has defended its handling of swine flu — influenza A(H1N1) — after being accused of declaring a pandemic without adequate scientific evidence.

Wolfgang Wodarg, an epidemiologist and chair of the European Council's Health Committee, told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, France, last month (25–29 January) that the WHO was not justified in announcing in June 2009 that A(H1N1) was a pandemic that could kill millions.

He also said that the decision was made only on the basis of a change in the criteria of what defines a pandemic the year before.

"In my view, the WHO undertook an incomprehensible action which cannot be justified by the scientific evidence. The Council of Europe should investigate this to see how the WHO can undertake this kind of dangerous nonsense," he said.

Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's special advisor on pandemic flu, said the organisation responded decisively in accordance with the International Health Regulations.

"The new virus spread with unprecedented speed reaching 120 countries and territories in about eight weeks and has now been reported from virtually all countries," he said.

Fukuda rejected allegations that the WHO created a 'fake' pandemic to make money for industry.

"The flu pandemic policies and responses were not improperly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry. Cooperation with a range of partners, including the private sector, is necessary but numerous safeguards are in place to avoid conflict of interest."

A report on pandemic flu is being prepared for PACE for debate in July or October 2010.

Influenza A(H1N1) can grow in the human eye, scientists from the Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong reported in this month's (1 February) American Journal of Pathology.

Their research found that, unlike seasonal flu, A(H1N1) can replicate in the conjunctiva, the transparent surface of the eye. This suggests that the viruses bind to different kinds of cells and that A(H1N1) could be transmitted through the eyes as well as the respiratory system.

If one in twenty people who recovered from A(H1N1) donated their blood plasma, more than two-thirds of patients still suffering from the disease could be treated by transfusion, researchers from the University of Hong Kong have calculated.

Their research, which used mathematical models, was published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this month (1 February).

The authors said clinical researchers should test the safety and usefulness of transfusions as a treatment for A(H1N1).

Vietnamese scientists have developed an influenza A(H1N1) test kit that diagnoses the disease within four hours. The kit — developed by the Ho Chi Minh City Pasteur Institute and the Vietnam Institute of Biotechnology — costs half the price of an imported kit, online news site Thanh Nien News reported last month (28 January).

Do you find this update useful? Let us know why so we can make it even better.

If you have used the information from one of our swine-flu science updates, please email us with details of how the material has helped you and what impact it has had on your work.

SciDev.Net's regular swine flu science updates are part of the swine flu subtopic, which offers up-to-date news, opinions and features on swine flu and the developing world.

You can also receive the latest on swine flu from SciDev.Net by signing up to our RSS feed or subscribing to our weekly email alert.

Related topics