WHO’s Reputation Changed in One Week

The World Health Organization had sufficient information to issue a SARS alert by March 5, but they delayed that information until the worldwide alert finally came out on March 12.

Had the alert been issued seven days earlier, or even five days earlier, the initial infection in Toronto would have been diagnosed and quaranined before spreading. Instead, Tse Chi Kwai (the son of a woman recently returned from Hong Kong) infected health care workers and other patients at Scarborough Grace Hospial in Toronto before succumbing to the disease himself.

The delay has cost 23 lives, and over a billion dollars in damage to the Toronto economy, so far. The WHO is funded by the international community to prevent such outbreaks. They were clearly asleep at the switch when the time came for them to act.

As the infection seems contained for now, we need to examine what went wrong. We need an international organization to warn health care workers around the world about emerging infectious diseases. If we can’t rely on the current World Health Organization, WHO can we turn to?


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