Sunday, May 07, 2006

The best policy (honesty)

I am mystified by WHO's regional director for the Western Pacific, Dr. Shigeru Omi, continuing to suggest we have the ability to snuff out the start of a pandemic by rushing help and supplies to an affected area:
Omi said that -- if the deadly H5N1 virus mutates to spread easily among people, threatening a global outbreak -- the first sign would likely be a cluster of flu infections within a family or neighbourhood.

The WHO would rush a team to the site, confirm the start of a pandemic, and quickly administer the anti-viral drug Tamiflu to the local population.

"Certainly we would have to ask the area concerned to implement containment, restrictions of movement and social distancing," he said, referring to measures such as school and workplace closures.

"The whole process has to be done within two or three weeks," he said. (AP)
I'm sorry, but this just isn't going to happen in Thailand or Vietnam, not to mention the worse off China or Indonesia. As Omi pointed out, only about half of the notifications of human cases are now arriving at WHO within two weeks of occurrence, making it almost impossible to move quickly enough to apply the fireblanket approach of containing and saturating the population with antiviral treatment. All I can think of is he believes this is an incentive for better surveillance and reporting, which will be beneficial in giving everyone an earlier warning.

But wouldn't it be better to be truthful and say that speedy notification is essential to give everyone, including the country of origin, as much warning as possible to mitigate the effects of a gathering pandemic?

I know it's old fashioned to say that honesty is the best policy. Call me old fashioned.