The government of Turkey has announced that they will now censor coverage of the spread of the pandemic within that country. Specifically, they will hide data relating to deaths. [hat-tip, Oric].
From ANSAmed, December 23, 2009
Turkey’s Health Ministry will no more make public death toll from swine flu, as Turkish daylies Milliyet and Vatan report today. The ministry was expected to release the toll today but it announced that routine statements would not be made anymore as the World Health Organization, or WHO, has not recommended such a practice.
The implication of the excerpt above is that the decision to hide pandemic deaths in Turkey is made on the recommendation of the WHO. This would be strange advice from a body that is supposed to be guarding public welfare, but, sadly, would not be out of character for the current Director-General, Margaret Chan.
Countries do not withhold good news. So, it is safe to assume that the death toll in Turkey has reach alarming levels. So alarming, that the government of Turkey, and perhaps the WHO, find it necessary to suppress this information.
What has caused this alarming increase in deaths in Turkey? At this point, we don’t know. There are many potential explanations including lack of access to Tamiflu and other medical care.
Turkey is of especial interest because in 2005 there was a large outbreak of H5N1 that resulted in a cluster of cases consistent with human-to-human transmission. Although this outbreak was extinguished and no new human cases of H5N1 have been reported in Turkey recently, the willingness of the Turkish government to suppress H1N1 pandemic deaths makes one wonder if they have also been suppressing H5N1 cases. The nightmare scenario would be human to human transmission of H5N1 and H1N1 at the same time. That would be alarming indeed.
Once governments take the decision to censor bad news, it is only natural to speculate why. If they don’t like the speculation, too bad. They’ve left us no alternative.