Defining pandemics down

WHO excitedly announced a few days ago that swine flu was a pandemic.  To my old-fashioned mind, pandemic means a deadly disease running riot around the world, threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands, if not millions.  Swine flu is definitely traveling, and it’s out of season, but so far (thank God), deaths have been in the low triple digits.  How, then, can it be a pandemic, sufficient to justify WHO exerting control over a variety of the world’s governments?  Simple:  by defining pandemic down.  Here’s Michael Fumento:

The WHO definition for “influenza pandemic” once required “several, simultaneous epidemics worldwide with enormous numbers of deaths and illness.” But in 2005, it promulgated a definition that virtually ignores the number of cases and completely ignores deaths. Now it requires “sustained chains of human-to-human transmission leading to community-wide outbreaks” in two parts of the world, with this addition: The cause must be an animal or human-animal flu virus; the latter is known as genetic reassortment.

Thus, under this definition, “community-wide outbreaks” of swine flu in two South American countries and somewhere in China could qualify as a pandemic. No deaths required. And a pure human flu that killed 20 million people would not qualify.

Why this change?  Because WHO has decided that anything that leaps from animals to humans is a deadly risk, regardless of actual risk:

The obvious presumption is that viruses with animal genes pose a greater threat. But that’s “a matter of faith more than science,” says James Chin, a University of California Berkeley epidemiologist who was in charge of surveillance and control of communicable diseases at the WHO in the late 1980s.

Indeed, the science indicates the presumption is false. The WHO first warned of an H5N1 avian flu pandemic in 2004, projecting up to 150 million deaths. Yet a 2007 study found H5N1 — though detected in 1959 — was many mutations away from the ability to become readily transmissible among humans.

I strongly suggest you read Fumento’s entire article, which distinguishes carefully between science and the politics of fear.

Speaking of the politics of fear, my Mom is always a good barometer of the media, because she watches a great deal of it, and it informs her ideas.  Conversation today revealed that she’s fearful Obama can’t handle simultaneous crises in Iran and North Korea, and that she thinks recycling is bunk (and that recycled paper products are expensive and ineffective).  She didn’t arrive at these ideas on her own.  She’s picking them up from hints in the media.