Friday, February 24, 2006

Between the lines of the WHO India update

WHO has issued a terse (200 word) update on the evolving situation in India. We'll have to read between the lines on this one:

WHO update: The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India has informed WHO that no human cases of H5N1 infection have been detected to date. Tests conducted on samples taken from persons under investigation and their close contacts have yielded no positive results as of today.

My translation: WHO will only say that the Indian government will not admit to any detection of cases or any positive tests.

WHO update:Testing has been undertaken at the National Institute of Virology in Pune and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in Delhi
It was not clear if samples from a 27-year-old poultry worker from Gujarat State, said to have died of respiratory disease on 17 February, were among those tested.

My translation: WHO is suspicious some important specimens have not undergone appropriate testing.

WHO update: In India, as in all countries experiencing their first outbreaks of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza, WHO strongly recommends that patient samples be sent to a WHO collaborating laboratory for diagnostic confirmation. Certainty about the status of human cases in a newly affected country is important for accurate risk assessment.

My translation: India should be sending the samples to a properly qualified WHO laboratory, not keeping them within their own laboratory system.

WHO update: In addition, analyses conducted by WHO-approved laboratories can yield information about the possible evolution of the virus and clues about how the virus may have arrived in the country. Genetic and antigenic studies of circulating viruses also help ensure that work on the development of a pandemic vaccine stays on track.

My translation: The reluctance of the Indian government to provide samples to WHO is obstructing a vital function and denying scientists possibly vital information.

WHO's consternation is plainly visible. So should the world community's.