La pandemia que no fue

PALO ALTO – En junio pasado, la Organización Mundial de la Salud de las Naciones Unidas, en respuesta a un brote del virus H1N1, o gripe porcina, llevó la alerta de pandemia a su nivel más alto, la Fase 6, que significa que había una pandemia en curso. Era la primera vez en 41 años que la OMS daba un paso así de alarmante. Sin embargo, el brote parece haber acabado más bien como una chuleta de cerdo asada con manzanas que como el jabalí fuera de control que habían predicho los burócratas de esta organización.

De hecho, la OMS hizo caso omiso una y otra vez de la advertencia de Sherlock Holmes: "Es un error capital teorizar antes de contar con toda la evidencia". Y la alerta de pandemia fue doblemente extraña, dado que todos los años se producen en el mundo olas estacionales de gripe que son invariablemente más letales que el H1N1 de baja virulencia que circula en la actualidad, y ciertamente cumplen la definición de la OMS para una pandemia: infecciones a lo largo de un amplia área geográfica que afectan a una gran proporción de la población.

Irónicamente, se podría pensar en la aparición de la gripe H1N1 durante los últimos nueve meses como un beneficio de sanidad neto, porque parece haber suprimido -o al menos suplantado- cepas de gripe estacionales mucho más virulentas y letales. Durante la segunda semana de enero, un 3,7% de los estadounidenses dieron positivo a la gripe estacional, en comparación con el 11,5% durante la misma semana de 2009. La cantidad oficial de víctimas de la cepa H1N1 es menos de 14.000, mientras que gripe estacional mata en promedio 36.000 personas en los Estados Unidos y cientos de miles en el resto del mundo.

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