Communication expert endorses WHO’s delay on pandemic declaration

first_imgJun 12, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – A well-known risk-communication expert said the World Health Organization (WHO) acted wisely in delaying its declaration of an influenza pandemic until yesterday, but he simultaneously expressed concern that the move may lead to complacency about the situation.The WHO drew considerable criticism for putting off announcing a phase 6 pandemic alert in the face of evidence that the virus was spreading on several continents. But Peter M. Sandman, PhD, a New Jersey-based consultant and close watcher of pandemic preparedness, said the WHO’s go-slow approach gave the world a chance to get used to the idea that a pandemic declaration was coming soon.However, he also worried that declaring a pandemic of an illness that is usually mild may lead many people to think that a pandemic is not a serious concern.Sandman observed, as have others, that the WHO has been trying to steer a course between unduly frightening people and lulling them into complacency.Officially, yesterday’s WHO announcement means that the H1N1 virus is spreading in communities in more than one region of the world. The virus first emerged in April in the United States and Mexico and has since spread to 74 countries. Its spread in places far from North America, including Australia, Chile, and the United Kingdom, had led to growing pressure on the WHO to announce that a pandemic was under way.But at the urging of several governments, the WHO held off on taking the step for weeks out of concern that it would cause excessive alarm in a world that has learned to link the concept of a pandemic to the H5N1 avian influenza virus, which rarely infects humans but kills about 60% of those it does infect.”I think WHO was wise to wait to declare H1N1 a pandemic, while clearly signaling that it would do so soon,” Sandman commented yesterday by e-mail.The delay has given everyone a chance to get used to the idea, allowed governments and companies time to adjust their preparedness plans, shown due deference to governments that urged delay, and allowed time for the evidence of H1N1 transmission in widespread parts of the world to grow indisputable, he said.”Those are all good objectives,” Sandman said. “An urgent health necessity would have trumped all of them, but I have trouble seeing what urgent health necessity would have been served by an earlier declaration. (It is worth remembering that the WHO’s recommended action steps for phases 5 and 6 are identical.)”An adjustment reaction likelySandman said the pandemic announcement is likely to cause anxiety in some people, who will undergo an “adjustment reaction”—a temporary state of overanxiety that can lead to precautions that are unnecessary or premature. This response is natural, and it typically passes soon, leaving people more concerned than before they learned about the threat but not overly anxious.”The key task of leaders is to guide the adjustment reaction instead of ridiculing it,” Sandman stated. “That helps people get through it more quickly. And it helps people come out in a better place.”He said leaders need to try to keep people who initially reacted with fear from later swinging to the opposite extreme, where they “end up feeling foolish for having been concerned, angry at those who warned them, and resistant to later evidence that the situation is worsening (a virulent pandemic second wave, for example).”But Sandman said he is much more concerned about complacency than fear in response to the WHO announcement: “Instead of learning from swine flu that influenza is a more serious disease than they thought and that a severe pandemic is an ever-present threat that deserves more preparedness that it has received, what millions of people ‘learned’ (mislearned) is that pandemics are a paper tiger and health officials are fear-mongers.”Insofar as the phase 6 declaration has an effect, I think confirming complacency will be a more important and more long-lasting effect than provoking a fearful adjustment reaction.”He hoped to hear the WHO, in its press conference yesterday, talk very explicitly about the dual concerns of undue alarm and complacency, but he was somewhat disappointed by what he heard.”It is disappointing that [yesterday’s] actual news briefing contained comparatively little that spoke to either concern,” he said. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and Assistant Director-General Keiji Fukuda “said much less than they might have said to validate that people may overreact temporarily but will recover quickly; that their governments should neither ridicule the overreaction nor take inappropriate ‘precautions’ in deference to it; that the pandemic we declared today isn’t the much more virulent pandemic we have lived in fear of since 2004; and that that more virulent pandemic may still be on the horizon (whether from H1N1, or H5N1, or a reassortment of the two), requiring both vigilance and preparedness.”On the other hand, he said WHO officials in several press interviews preceding the announcement did make some comments about these considerations, especially the adjustment reaction.Markets unfazed by declarationSandman also observed that world markets mostly rose yesterday, apparently unfazed by the WHO announcement. The Dow Jones average was up 31.9 points.”In other words, investors do not expect an economically damaging response to the phase 6 declaration; they are betting that few if any governments are going to close borders or take other steps that would materially damage economic prospects,” he said.Meanwhile, a business continuity specialist with Marriott International said today that the business world’s reaction to the pandemic declaration is likely to be moderate.”I think the initial response will generally remain quite restrained as businesses and governments have had a few weeks to adjust their plans to the realities of a more moderate H1N1 pandemic,” said Penny Turnbull, senior director of business continuity at Marriott.”It also appears that there is a good understanding that the virus may change in the coming months, requiring more restrictive policies and procedures to be implemented—particularly in the realm of community mitigation measures,” she said. “In the meantime, overall the response seems quite well scaled to the risk. In these early weeks I think this is the most important message—make sure the response is scaled appropriately and be ready to escalate as, and when, necessary.”See also: Index of Sandman’s writings about H1N1 flu risk communicationhttp://www.psandman.com/index-infec.htm#swineflu1Sandman’s periodic updates on the topichttp://www.psandman.com/col/swinecomm.htmlast_img read more

Trump Organization Cancels Anti-Muslim Group’s Upcoming Mar-a-Lago Event

first_imgThe Trump Organization on announced Sunday that it has canceled a November fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago for ACT for America, an anti-Muslim extremist group that has more than one million members.Amanda Miller, a spokesperson for the Trump Organization, says, “This group absolutely will not be hosting their event at Mar-a-Lago.”She did not immediately provide any additional details, such as who at Mar-a-Lago had approved the November 7 event.News broke earlier during the weekend that ACT was planning to host its annual fundraiser at President Trump’s private club. The group is known as the largest anti-Muslim organization in the United States.This is a developing story.last_img read more

Elaine Ratcliffe to captain GB&I Curtis Cup team

first_img England’s Elaine Ratcliffe has been appointed as the new captain of the Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup team for the 2020 match.She will also lead the teams in the Vagliano Trophy and the Astor Trophy in 2019.Ratcliffe, who hails from Sandbach in Cheshire but is now based at Essendon, Essex, had a top-class amateur career as a player, winning the English and Finnish championships.She was a member of the winning GB&I teams which defeated the United States in the 1996 Curtis Cup at Killarney, and the Continent of Europe in the 1997 Vagliano Trophy. Ratcliffe also represented GB&I as a player in the world championship Espirito Santo Trophy and England in the European Amateur Team Championships. After turning professional, she was named Rookie of the Year by the Ladies’ European Tour in 1999 but was reinstated as an amateur in 2008.Image copyright Getty ImagesShe has since captained England in a number of international matches, including the Women’s Home Internationals and the European Amateur Team Championships, and has twice led the European team in the Patsy Hankins Trophy against Asia-Pacific.“It is a real honour to be appointed captain of Great Britain and Ireland and I am looking forward to the challenge of preparing the team for the forthcoming international matches in 2019 and 2020,” said Ratcliffe.“There are a number of amateur events to be played over the coming months and we will be monitoring the performances and results of golfers from Great Britain and Ireland to determine who has played their way into contention for team selection next year.”Ireland’s Maria Dunne has also been confirmed as the new GB&I captain for the Junior Vagliano Trophy match against the Continent of Europe at Royal St George’s in 2019.As a player, Dunne featured as a member of the GB&I team which beat the US to win the Curtis Cup in 2016 and also played in the Vagliano Trophy against the Continent of Europe at Circolo Golf Bogogno last year. Tags: Curtis Cup, GB&I 4 Sep 2018 Elaine Ratcliffe to captain GB&I Curtis Cup team last_img read more