Nominated today: Margaret Chan, to become the new Director-General of the UN's World Health Organization (WHO). Director of health in Hong Kong from
1994 to 2003, Chan was criticized for dragging her feet on the SARS epidemic, which emerged in China in late 2002 and killed 774 people worldwide.
Supporters say she is less likely to soft-pedal any similar information emerging from China about flu because of her role in the SARS scandal.
A Chinese doctor who has played a key role in United Nations efforts to prevent bird flu from mutating into a deadly human pandemic was today
nominated to become the new head of the UN health agency.
Margaret Chan, who until July was the top UN World Health Organization (WHO) official for communicable diseases and the point person for pandemic
influenza, was chosen by WHO’s Executive Board from a short list of five to succeed Director-General Lee Jong-wook, who died suddenly in May.
The World Health Assembly, WHO’s supreme decision making body, will meet in Geneva in a one-day special session tomorrow to formally appoint the
WHO leadership shortlist down to five
Another front-runner was even closer to both battles. Margaret Chan was director of health in Hong Kong from 1994 to 2003. She recommended the
slaughter of all poultry in Hong Kong to stop the initial emergence of H5N1 bird flu, and has since presided over what has been Hong Kong’s
successful exclusion of the virus in poultry.
But her handling of SARS is more controversial. A government inquiry in Hong Kong accused her of not responding fast enough to initial reports of a
mysterious respiratory disease in southern China, out of apparent deference to Beijing’s failure to admit to the disease. Supporters note that this
might make her less likely to soft-pedal any similar information emerging from China about flu. And, as a Chinese citizen she may be more likely to
establish good relations with China, the epicentre of flu evolution.
International health experts have repeatedly complained about Chinese foot-dragging
in co-operating on investigating emerging diseases such as bird flu and SARS
, which emerged in China's south in late 2002 and eventually killed
774 people worldwide, including 44 in Canada.
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This one is just a little hard to call.
Industry wants the pandemic down-played to protect international trade and travel.
The US supports policies to protect international trade, and likely supports hiding a pandemic, at least in the 4th and 5th stages.
So the US would support Chan's appointment because she'll play ball, and keep things quiet to protect international trade.
She's already shown she's willing to shift priorities away from public health, in favor of 'protecting the economy.'
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