Calls for public health organisations to raise their questions and complaints

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has begun a “frank” and “critical” review of the response to the H1N1 influenza, or swine flu, pandemic.

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO, said the swine flu pandemic, the first major pandemic in four decades, was a major test of the functioning of the revised International Health Regulations (IHR), which came into force in 2007.

“This has been the most closely watched and carefully scrutinized pandemic in history. This gives us a vast body of scientific, clinical, and epidemiological data to assess,” said Chan.

“The pandemic’s spread was rapidly global. To date, laboratory confirmed cases of H1N1 pandemic influenza have been officially reported from 213 countries and overseas territories or communities,” she continued.

When the performance of the IHR is assessed under the challenging conditions of an influenza pandemic, added Chan, specific strengths and weaknesses are likely to come to light.

Chan appealed to public health organisations around the world to raise questions and concerns with the review committee. She said she aimed to facilitate a “process that is independent, credible, and transparent.”

“We want a frank and critical assessment,” said Chan. “We are seeking lessons, about how the IHR has functioned, about how WHO and the international community responded to the pandemic, that can aid the management of future public health emergencies of international concern. And I can assure you: there will be more.”

“We want to know what worked well. We want to know what went wrong and, ideally, why. We want to know what can be done better and, ideally, how.”