Marc Lipsitch on swine flu precautions

“[I]t is ironic, as we watch for the second time in five years the catastrophic results of 'best-case scenario planning' in the Gulf of Mexico, to have the WHO coming under criticism for planning for, and raising awareness of, the possibility of a severe pandemic.”

- Marc Lipsitch, quoted in Nature

Sometimes in the scientific business, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t – no more so than in the fuzzy domain of predicting future disasters. Instead of being grateful that last year’s H1N1 pandemic turned out to be relatively benign, certain quarters of the media have been fanning the flames of conspiracy theorists by suggesting that the entire response was a ploy to line the pockets of Big Pharma. In a news piece by Declan Butler in this week’s Nature, scientists offer a reasoned rebuttal. Lipsitch, an an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, was one of them.

In our view, one has only to think of the media response had the WHO failed to take swine flu seriously and millions had died as a result to know who acted responsibly in this case.

Read the full article in Nature.