Socio-Economics History Blog

Socio-Economics & History Commentary

WHO Chief Not Raising A/H1N1 Flu Alert Level Yet

  • Although the A/H1N1 is spreading very quickly worldwide, its fatality rate is low. So far less than 80 people have died. Compare this with seasonal flu that kills something like 300,000 to 500,000 worldwide. AP reports :
      
    The chief of the World Health Organization says she is not raising the world swine flu alert level just yet. Several countries including Britain, Japan and China had urged the U.N. health agency to change how it decides to raise the alert level.
     
    WHO chief Dr. Margaret Chan says the swine flu epidemic is in “a grace period” with the WHO alert remaining at phase 5 out of a possible six for the last month. She told the WHO annual assembly on Monday that no one can say how long this period will last.
     
    Chan says the danger now is that the swine flu virus could mix with other flu strains and become more dangerous.
      ….
    Britain, Japan, China and other nations urged the World Health Organization on Monday to change the way it decides to declare a pandemic __ saying the agency must consider how deadly the virus is, not just how fast it is spreading.
     
    The debate arose as WHO began its annual meeting, a five-day event attended by hundreds of health experts from the agency’s 193 member nations. Swine flu is expected to dominate this year’s conference — and WHO must consider whether it should raise its alert level or tell manufacturers to begin making a specific swine flu vaccine.
     
    WHO’s current system focuses on how widespread the disease has become without regard to its severity. Some member nations are anxious to avoid having the agency declare a swine flu pandemic, because the ramifications of that scientific decision could be very costly and politically charged.
     
    “We need to give you and your team more flexibility as to whether we move to phase 6,” British Health Secretary Alan Johnson said. Japan also called for changes in WHO’s system, which would move to pandemic if the virus starts to be transmitted among people outside schools, hospitals and other institutions where viruses typically pass quickly. “It’s certainly something we will look at very closely,” Dr. Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s flu chief, said of the proposal.
     
    So far, the United States was noncommittal on the issue. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told The Associated Press she wanted more information on the proposal before taking a position, but that she was impressed how many countries supported it.
     
    Health experts were examining new swine flu cases in Spain, Britain and especially Japan, where more than 130 people, the vast majority of them teenagers, have been infected, prompting the government to close 2,000 schools and cancel public events. A good number of the new cases were transmitted in-country, infecting people who had not traveled overseas recently.
     
    WHO says transmission rates in countries outside the Americas is the key factor in whether the agency should raise its pandemic alert scale to the highest level. Right now it is at phase 5 — out of a possible 6 — meaning a global outbreak is “imminent.”
     
    Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the WHO meeting that the outbreak is “not winding down” in the United States and “widespread transmission” continues. He also said the epidemic also was not over in Mexico.
      ….
    As of Monday, the swine flu virus has sickened at least 8,829 people in 40 countries, including 76 deaths. Chile on Sunday became the latest country to confirm a case of swine flu.
     
    A pandemic announcement would likely have severe economic consequences: it could trigger expensive trade and travel restrictions like border closures, airport screenings and quarantines, as countries not yet affected struggle to keep the virus out.
     
    Governments may also fear outbreaks of mass panic, social disruption and increased pressures on their health systems. Under public pressure, extraordinary measures such as large-scale pig slaughters like the recent one in Egypt could be taken, whether or not they are scientifically justified.

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May 19, 2009 Posted by | Medicine & Health | | Comments Off on WHO Chief Not Raising A/H1N1 Flu Alert Level Yet

Sri Lanka’s Long War Ending, Tamil Tigers concede

  • This long war is coming to an end. It is about time. Reuters reports :
      
    The Tamil Tigers conceded defeat in Sri Lanka’s 25-year civil war on Sunday, with some staging suicide attacks to try to repel a final assault by troops determined to annihilate them.
     
    President Mahinda Rajapaksa had already declared victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) the day before, and the military said the bulk of the fighting was over by the time the rebels said they had been beaten.
     
    Even though there was little doubt about the final outcome of Asia’s longest modern war, sporadic battles were still being fought late on Sunday and no one was willing to predict when the last bullet would be fired.
     
    “We are doing the mopping-up operations,” military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said. “Suicide cadres are coming in front of troops in the frontline and exploding themselves.”
     
    Rajapaksa was due to make a formal victory announcement in parliament on Tuesday morning, but already flags were flying, people were dancing and lighting off fireworks in celebration.
     
    The last act was playing out in what the military said was less than 1 square km (0.5 sq mile), where the LTTE carried out suicide attacks on Sunday before troops freed the last of 72,000 civilians who have fled over four days.

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May 19, 2009 Posted by | GeoPolitics | | Comments Off on Sri Lanka’s Long War Ending, Tamil Tigers concede

Brazil and China Eye Plan to Axe Dollar

  • The collapse of the USD is getting closer. Financial Times reports :
      
    Brazil and China will work towards using their own currencies in trade transactions rather than the US dollar, according to Brazil’s central bank and aides to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s president.
     
    The move follows recent Chinese challenges to the status of the dollar as the world’s leading international currency. Mr Lula da Silva, who is visiting Beijing this week, and Hu Jintao, China’s president, first discussed the idea of replacing the dollar with the renminbi and the real as trade currencies when they met at the G20 summit in London last month.
     
    An official at Brazil’s central bank stressed that talks were at an early stage. He also said that what was under discussion was not a currency swap of the kind China recently agreed with Argentina and which the US had agreed with several countries, including Brazil.
     
    “Currency swaps are not necessarily trade related,” the official said. “The funds can be drawn down for any use. What we are talking about now is Brazil paying for Chinese goods with reals and China paying for Brazilian goods with renminbi.”
     
    Henrique Meirelles and Zhou Xiaochuan, governors of the two countries’ central banks, were expected to meet soon to discuss the matter, the official said.
     
    Mr Zhou recently proposed replacing the US dollar as the world’s leading currency with a new international reserve currency, possibly in the form of special drawing rights (SDRs), a unit of account used by the International Monetary Fund.

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May 19, 2009 Posted by | Economics | , , | Comments Off on Brazil and China Eye Plan to Axe Dollar