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WHO Official Says Agency Struggled To Find ‘Right Tempo’ For Release Of H1N1 Information

The rapid spread of information via the Internet “had a disruptive impact on the handling of the flu pandemic by fanning speculation and rumours,” WHO officials said Tuesday on day two of a three-day meeting of external experts tasked with evaluating the WHO’s handling of  H1N1 (swine flu), Agence France-Presse reports.

Although the Internet allowed health officials to make information about the virus widely available, Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s influenza chief, said it also “produced  ‘news, rumours, a great deal of speculation and criticism in multiple outlets,’ including blogs, social networking and websites,” complicating messages about H1N1 vaccines and other details about the pandemic, the news service writes.

“Anti-vaccine messaging was very active, made it very difficult for public health services in many countries,” Fukuda said, pointing to “the speed with which information spread and its influence on ‘volatile’ public opinion,” according to AFP. Fukuda acknowledged that the WHO had also “struggled to find the ‘right tempo’ for communications,” AFP adds.

The article highlights ways misinformation about H1N1 was communicated over the Internet and comments by a panel members and a former WHO infectious diseases chief about the challenges associated with communicating information about a pandemic accurately (4/13).