Major Victory with Swine Flu Scandal
November 19, 2009
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European scientists and health authorities are facing angry questions about why H1N1 flu has not caused death and destruction on the scale first feared, and they need to respond deftly to ensure public support.
Accusations are flying in British and French media that the pandemic has been "hyped" by medical researchers to further their own cause, boost research grants and line the pockets of drug companies.
Britain's Independent newspaper this week asked "Pandemic? What Pandemic?"
France's Le Parisien newspaper ran the headline: "Swine flu: why the French distrust the vaccine" and noted a gap between the predicted impact of H1N1 and the less dramatic reality.
"Although some 30-odd people have died....the disease is not really frightening," it said. "Dangerous liaisons between certain experts, the labs and the government, the obscurity of the contracts between the state and the pharma firms have added to the doubt."
In response, scientists are walking a fine line. They say that although the virus is mild, it can still kill, and that the relatively low fatalities in Europe are in part, the result of official response to their advice.
However, in Britain, health authorities' original worst-case scenario -- which said as many as 65,000 could die from H1N1 -- has twice been revised down and the prediction is now for around 1,000 deaths, way below the average annual toll of 4,000 to 8,000 deaths from seasonal winter flu.