Monday, May 18, 2009

Nations urge WHO to revise the pandemic alert system

The World Health Assembly begins today and continues through this week. H1N1 is expected to dominate the discussion and the headlines coming out of the week long meeting.

Countries are urging WHO to revise the pandemic alert system. Currently, the system only takes into account how the virus is spreading, not the severity of illness it causes. Taking into account severity could help depoliticize the move to Phase 6, which might cause panic and undue concern.

It sounds like a good idea, and CDC even has it's own severity index for the United States. Unfortunately, it's not easy to quantify severity at a global scale:

"Severity and the broader impact on society is something that we really can't set globally, because of the unique conditions in every community," WHO spokesman Dick Thompson told The Associated Press. "Severity is going to be different in different countries. And within a country, it will be different in different populations."

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