Tuesday, April 13, 2010

WHO pandemic probe focuses on media, internet role

Agence France-Presse: The Internet had a disruptive impact on the handling of the flu pandemic by fanning speculation and rumours, officials said as a world health probe on Tuesday examined communications on swine flu. World Health Organisation influenza chief Keiji Fukuda told 29 health experts reviewing the international response to the pandemic that the Internet had added a new dimension to flu alerts over the past year.

While it meant information about swine flu became more widely available, it also produced "news, rumours, a great deal of speculation and criticism in multiple outlets," including blogs, social networking and websites, he said. "Anti-vaccine messaging was very active, made it very difficult for public health services in many countries," Fukuda said as a nine-month review of the A(H1N1) flu pandemic got under way.

Several governments have been trying to cancel orders for hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of special swine flu vaccines. Mass vaccination campaigns in Europe last year fell flat amid public doubts about the value of immunisation because of milder than expected swine flu symptoms, speculation about the safety of the vaccine and concern about the influence of the pharmaceutical industry.

Fukuda also pinpointed the speed with which information spread and its influence on "volatile" public opinion, admitting that the WHO had struggled to find the "right tempo" for communications….

A Tamiflu pill from Roche, for use against Influenza A (H1N1) virus causing the 2009 flu pandemic, shot by andrew wales, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative CommonsAttribution 2.0 Generic license

No comments: