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 communication’s periodic updates on the topic read more

Men’s basketball breakdown: Wisconsin vs. Michigan

first_imgGame RecapThe start of the first half was rough for Wisconsin, as the team struggled shooting the ball early on and was down for a majority of the first 20 minutes. However, it was back-to-back threes from Bronson Koenig and an 8-0 to end the half that put the Badgers up five going into the locker room.Despite ending the first half on a sour note, Michigan still came out fighting in the second and kept pace with UW throughout. However, with just under four minutes left and Wisconsin up just two, a three from Sam Dekker ignited the Badgers and the team went on a 13-4 run to end the game. The run resulted in a 71-60 Wisconsin victory and they advance to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.Wisconsin Player of the GameSam Dekker: 17 points (7-12 FG, 1-4 3Pt, 2-2 FT), six rebounds, six assists, three steals in 35 minutesDekker was all over the place in Wisconsin’s winning effort, leading the team in both scoring and assists. When Frank Kaminsky was sent to the bench earlier than usual, it was Dekker who kept Wisconsin active, scoring eight straight points for the team at one point in the first half. It appeared Dekker had played with a more aggressive and fiery passion than usual, which is exactly what the Badgers will need him to continue doing as they make their run back to the Final Four. The six rebounds and three steals were both career-highs for Dekker and he has now scored in double figures in 19 of the last 22 games.Michigan Player of the GameZak Irvin: 21 points (9-18 FG, 3-7 3Pt) and 11 reboundsIrvin was Michigan’s main offensive threat for the entire game. He was finding plenty of good looks off the team’s pick-and-roll offense and the Badgers were struggling to stop him. Fortunately enough for Wisconsin, it was able to limit him when they needed to most, as Irvin scored just two points in the final six minutes of the game. Also, despite grabbing 11 rebounds, Irvin wasn’t able to record one offensive board. This was Irvin’s fifth game this season scoring 20-plus points and he has three of Michigan’s four double-doubles on the year.Turning PointThe turning point in Friday’s game was following a Wisconsin timeout with 12:25 remaining in the second half. Michigan had just gone on an 8-0 run to take a 44-41 lead and the Badgers were struggling on both ends of the floor. Duje Dukan checked in at that time, and on UW’s first possession following the timeout, he sunk a three to tie the game. Just over a minute later, Dukan hit another. Both threes were part of an 8-2 run that put Wisconsin up for good.When You Knew It Was OverWe really knew the game was over with 1:10 remaining on the clock, when Kaminsky shot a heavily contested jumper in the paint and it fell short. Nigel Hayes, who had been under the rim, grabbed the ball and put it up and in to put the Badgers up seven. At that point for Michigan, a stop and a bucket would have made it a one possession game, but Hayes’ put-back prevented that from happening. Wisconsin made their free throws and had no problem closing out the game from there.Key Stats– Kaminsky finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds, giving the National Player of the Year candidate his Big-Ten leading 11th double-double of the season.– Wisconsin shot 14-of-16 from the free throw line, while Michigan attempted their first free throws of the game with just 21 seconds remaining in the second half. They missed both.– Wisconsin was dominant on the boards, outrebounding Michigan 34-19 and scoring 17 second-chance points to Michigan’s seven.– Dekker’s four offensive rebounds matched Michigan’s team total.– Both teams did a very good job taking care of the ball. Wisconsin finished with seven turnovers while Michigan finished with just five.– After shooting a poor 3-of-11 from behind the arc in the first half, Wisconsin shot 4-of-8 from three in the second half.Game Notes– Wisconsin committed just three personal fouls on the game, a season low for the Badgers. This is also the second time this season the Badgers haven’t allowed a point from the free throw line.– Wisconsin has won 15 of the last 17 meetings with Michigan overall– Of Wisconsin’s 29 wins this season, 24 have come by double digits– The Badgers trailed at the first media timeout for the first time since playing Nebraska on Jan. 15 and this is just the sixth time Wisconsin has trailed in the second half all season– Wisconsin’s 29-3 record is the best start to a season in school historyQuotableDekker on earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament:“Well, if we come out of here Sunday with a trophy I think it’s hard to not have us as a one. But it’s whatever. One, two, we’re going to be in the NCAA tournament and playing some teams so I’m not too worried about it. I think we’ll be ready regardless of our seed, regardless of where we’re going to play; just looking forward to getting it and hopefully making another run.”Dukan on how big his performance today was for him:“It’s huge. I just wanted to come in, especially this being March, this is kind of where players are made and where teams are made and we’re trying to make a good run here and make our names be known. I just try to come into the game and contribute in any way possible.”Kaminsky and Dukan on returning to Chicago:“It’s awesome being able to come home and play in front of so many friends and family. Duje and I are from this area and we have ties to this arena. It’s always awesome when you have a chance to play someplace like this.” – Kaminsky“Growing up as a kid, I came to games, I worked here as a ball boy, shot around before games. It’s always been a dream of mine to play in an arena like especially this one, so to be able to come here and have a good performance, it’s definitely very, very encouraging.” – DukanBo Ryan on what he takes away from the victory:“We get to play another 40 minutes down here in Chicago in a great venue… I brought a James Patterson novel hoping to stay here a few days.”last_img read more