Wednesday, December 22, 2004

"WHO Adds More "1918" to Pandemic Predictions"

Science -- Enserink 306 (5704): 2025b -- WHO Pandemic Predictions

The World Health Organization has published conservative estimates of the mortality from the coming pandemic of Asian flu.

"The next pandemic strain may just as well be highly virulent, like the one that caused the 1918-19 Spanish flu, which claimed at least 20 million lives and perhaps many more. WHO's earlier numbers are 'rather ridiculous,' says Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in Minneapolis. In a 25 November e-mail to Stöhr, Osterholm pointed out that given today's world population, a 1918-like virus could kill at least 72 million. 'World leaders need to get this message,' Osterholm says. On 29 November, a similar message was sounded by Shigeru Omi, director of WHO's Western Pacific Region Office in Manila, who broke ranks by saying publicly that the toll could be as high as 20 million, 50 million, or 'in the worst case,' 100 million."

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