One of the big stories in yesterday's media was the grim statement made by the top UN official on the number of casualties we could expect from a flu pandemic:
Dr David Nabarro of the World Health Organisation called on governments to take immediate steps to address the threat at a news conference following his appointment as the new UN co-ordinator to lead a global drive to counter a human flu pandemic.
[...] In a new pandemic, Nabarro said, "the range of deaths could be anything between five and 150 million".
"I believe the work we're doing over the next few months on prevention and preparedness will make the difference between, for example, whether the next pandemic leads us in the direction of 150 (million) or in the direction of five (million)," he said.
Today the WHO tried to distance itself from Nabarro's forecasts, defending a much lower figure, but warning that any estimates are not going to be precise:
"There is obvious confusion, and I think that has to be straightened out. I don't think you will hear Dr. Nabarro say the same sort of thing again," WHO influenza spokesman Dick Thompson told a news briefing.
The WHO, the U.N. health agency, conceded that all forecasts were guesswork and said Nabarro's comments had merely reflected widely diverging expert opinion.
"But we think that this is the most reasoned position," he added, referring to its long-standing forecast of 2-7.4 million, which comes from a study by the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a WHO collaborating center.