Just hours after the WHO declared a Level 6 alert for the novel H1N1 outbreak a business local to the Chicago area declared that they may be coming into a $150 to $200 million windfall.  Baxter International released a statement concerning orders of the H1N1 vaccine and how the WHO’s decision to move to Level 6 will create a huge cash supplement this year.  According to Chicago Business:

Several countries have contracts with Deerfield-based Baxter and other drug makers that reserve the right to buy vaccines if the WHO declares a Level 6 pandemic. A number of governments now are likely to exercise those advance-purchase agreements, New York-based J. P. Morgan Chase & Co. analyst Mike Weinstein said in a research note to clients.

Baxter has stated that it will be ready to fulfill orders in October.  The UK, the only country to publicly announce a vaccine purchase, will buy up to 30 million doses from Baxter with the rest coming from GlaxoSmithKline.

World leaders have been worried that a Level 6 declaration will cause widespread panic and hurt businesses around the globe, especially those dealing with tourism or entertainment.  While that is a possibility it does not relenquish the duty of the WHO to make factually informed decisions concerning the information it passes onto the global community.  National health organizations such as the CDC watch and follow what the WHO presents in order to evaluate measures to take to deal with pandemics and it is of utmost importance that the WHO maintain independence from political pressure in order to provide the most accurate and detailed information they can.

Level 6 has been declared and there were not riots on the streets, there were no businesses who immediately closed their doors, and there were no borders that were shut down.  It is most likely that this virus will affect business around the world but I think that would happen regardless of what the WHO does.  Local newspapers and large media corporations do a pretty good job of covering what the clinics are seeing and do more to fan fears than present relevant information.  That is why the WHO needs to step up and be that provider that gives the real information that we as a global community need to combat these types of outbreaks.

Another aspect of this move is that we don’t get many opportunities to practice our containment and treatment protocols for novel pandemic infections.  We are very lucky in that this virus is not a “killer” and the shortcomings of our response systems aren’t pointed out by mass hospitalizations and mortality rates.  This is why surveillance is going to be so key with this outbreak.  The epidemiologists and infections disease experts are going to have to comb over all the details to give good recommendations on how we can upgrade our systems so when the real thing comes along we are sure we are doing everything in our power to stop it in its tracks.