This article, published on 5 February 2010, originally appeared in Forbes. It was removed sometime in mid October 2020 with no explanation.
The World Health Organization has suddenly gone from crying “The sky is falling!” like a cackling Chicken Little to squealing like a stuck pig. The reason: charges that the agency deliberately fomented swine flu hysteria. “The world is going through a real pandemic. The description of it as a fake is wrong and irresponsible,” the agency claims on its Web site. A WHO spokesman declined to specify who or what gave this “description,” but the primary accuser is hard to ignore.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), a human rights watchdog, is publicly investigating the WHO’s motives in declaring a pandemic. Indeed, the chairman of its influential health committee, epidemiologist Wolfgang Wodarg, has declared that the “false pandemic” is “one of the greatest medicine scandals of the century.”
Even within the agency, the director of the WHO Collaborating Center for Epidemiology in Munster, Germany, Dr. Ulrich Kiel, has essentially labeled the pandemic a hoax. “We are witnessing a gigantic misallocation of resources [$18 billion so far] in terms of public health,” he said.
They’re right. This wasn’t merely overcautiousness or simple misjudgment. The pandemic declaration and all the Klaxon-ringing since reflect sheer dishonesty motivated not by medical concerns but political ones. Unquestionably, swine flu has proved to be vastly milder than ordinary seasonal flu. It kills at a third to a tenth the rate, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates. Data from other countries like France and Japan indicate it’s far tamer than that.
Indeed, judging by what we’ve seen in New Zealand and Australia (where the epidemics have ended), and by what we’re seeing elsewhere in the world, we’ll have considerably fewer flu deaths this season than normal. That’s because swine flu muscles aside seasonal flu, acting as a sort of inoculation against the far deadlier strain.
Did the WHO have any indicators of this mildness when it declared the pandemic in June?
Absolutely, as I wrote at the time. We were then fully 11 weeks into the outbreak and swine flu had only killed 144 people worldwide–the same number who die of seasonal flu worldwide every few hours. (An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 per year by the WHO’s own numbers.) The mildest pandemics of the 20th century killed at least a million people.