An iatrogenic pandemic of panic

L.G.A. Bonneux, W. Van Damme

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


Nine decades after the disappearance of the infamous Spanish flu, its ghost is threatening again. In manymcountries, panicking citizens are buying drugs from uncertain sources through the internet for a disease that does not yet exist.1 In September 2005, Dr Nabarro, the World Health Organization’s publichealth expert coordinating the response to avian influenza, told the Associated Press that a global avian influenza pandemic could kill 150 million people worldwide.2 What are the risks of a pandemic and is stockpiling antiviral drugs the best response? Conclusion Panic in epidemics is a part of the human condition. The increase in health scares may reflect the absence of real attacks, making us over-react to hypothetical dangers. We should use panic, with good reason or not, to tackle the larger agenda of preventable and curable disease in the world, starting with low vaccination rates in winter flu. International health policy should stay cool and not be distracted by the latest health scare and its industry sponsored quick fix. The humanist road leading to adequate healthcare services for all citizens of the world is still long.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)786-788
JournalBritish Medical Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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