"The world is going through a real pandemic. The description of it as a fake is both wrong and irresponsible," Keiji Fukuda, the special adviser to the WHO director-general on pandemic influenza, told reporters during a briefing. "WHO has been balanced and truthful in the information it has provided to the public. It has not underplayed and not overplayed the risk it poses to the public.
"We did take very great care that the advice it received is not unduly influenced."
The criticism is coming mainly from Europe. As OpposingViews.com reported Wednesday, the head of health for the Council of Europe said making H1N1 an official "pandemic" was a goldmine for drug companies. "The great campaign of panic we have seen provided a golden opportunity for representatives from labs who knew they would hit the jackpot in the case of a pandemic being declared," Wolfgang Wodarg told the UK tabloid The Sun.
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"A group of people in the WHO is associated very closely with the pharmaceutical industry," Wodarg claims.
Read the entire article here: Expert Says Swine Flu Scare Just a Money-Making Scam
As far as Wodarg's last allegation, Fukudo dismissed it. He said the agency has strict rules in place requiring anyone who provides advice to the WHO to disclose any financial conflicts of interest, including any ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
"Has the WHO been influenced by industry? The answer is 'No,'" he said. "To protect the integrity of the advice given to WHO and remain free from undue influence WHO has had in place routine protections against conflict of interest. This is true for a long time but also during this particular pandemic."
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Fukuda disputed charges that the WHO "overplayed the pandemic," saying the agency never said whether it thought the pandemic would be mild or severe.
"From the very beginning, WHO has gone out of its way to let everyone know that the future course of the pandemic was uncertain, that we did not have a crystal ball and we could not tell you which way it was going to go. WHO has always been very balanced and sober in providing its assessment. We have tried very hard to neither overplay or underplay the situation."
The agency estimates that the pandemic has directly killed at least 13,000 people worldwide already, and that number could eventually turn out to be "much larger" once the pandemic is over, he said.
He also said the death toll could have been higher. "We don't know how many deaths and infections have been averted or prevented by some of the actions of these countries," he said. "We firmly believe these actions shouldn't be discounted."
Although just one state in the U.S. -- Alabama -- is still reporting widespread swine flu activity, the WHO insists the pandemic is not yet over.