WHO: H1N1 pandemic remains a threat

The H1N1 flu pandemic is as severe as influenza pandemics in 1957 and 1968 and remains a threat to healthy young adults, John Mackenzie, the Australian who heads the World Health Organization's Emergency Committee, said Wednesday. He also said he was not aware of any of its 15 members being approached by drug companies seeking to influence their decision-making, according to Reuters.

"This is just as severe as we saw in 1957 and 1968, with one major difference. We are not seeing deaths in the elderly but we are seeing them in a more important group of the population, healthy young adults," Mackenzie said. He made these remarks following an in-depth review by external experts to assess the global response to the pandemic and identify lessons for the future. The official death toll so far from H1N1 is 17,700, but the WHO says it will take at least a year or two after the pandemic ends to establish the true number. The 1957 and 1968 pandemics killed about 2 million and 1 million people respectively, according to the WHO.

The WHO has faced criticisms about its handling of the pandemic. Dr. Harvey Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine and chair of the committee reviewing the response to the pandemic, said during a press briefing that the body is mindful of these criticisms and wants to give a full consideration of these complaints.

In addition, the heads of panels of scientists advising the agency on vaccines and the alert said "meticulous care" was taken to avoid conflicts of interest and to keep a distance from industry as far as possible. David Salisbury, of the WHO's standing Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunization, emphasized candidates for the body were vetted before they joined and those with conflicts of interest were excluded, according to the Independent.

- listen to Fineberg's presentation
- check out the Reuters report
- see the Independent's coverage

ALSO: Rates of a rare neurodegenerative disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome, among those who received the H1N1 vaccine last year were no higher than among the general population, new research shows. Report