In Holland, the Public Face of Flu Takes a Hit/ Science

From Martin Enserink in the Oct. 16 Science, excerpts regarding claims of financial conflict of interest and fear-mongering on the part of Holland’s leading flu scientist, Albert Osterhaus:

… fellow scientists have accused Osterhaus of fear-mongering. Luc Bonneux, an epidemiologist at the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, says Osterhaus is part of a “flu mafia” and that he’s hyping the threats of both avian and swine flu. Miquel Ekkelenkamp, a microbiologist at University Medical Center Utrecht, called Osterhaus a “panic virologist” in a recent op-ed, adding that he “should be banned from television permanently.”

… Bonneux has also taken aim at the European Scientific Working Group on Influenza (ESWI), an industry-supported group that Osterhaus has chaired since 2000. ESWI organizes meetings, promotes awareness about flu, and tries to raise vaccination levels. Bonneux says the group—which receives a {euro}40,000 contribution from each of 10 companies annually—is little more than a lobby club that gives “trumped-up, sensational stories a scientific seal of approval.”

And last July, it was pointed out that the UK’s appointee (Sir Roy Anderson) to the WHO Strategic Group of Experts (that helps make decisions about the approach to pandemics) received 116,000 pounds from GlaxoSmithKline as a director last year. That is $185,000 US dollars. Glaxo sells Relenza for swine flu treatment. Sir Roy took over as Rector of Imperial College, London last year, where he earns up to £400,000 a year in additional compensation.

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