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Is the China-Friendly WHO Calling the Tune for CDC?

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Back on February 25, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a conference call for reporters. Fielding questions was Dr. Nancy Messonnier, Director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD). Craig Fiegener from KNX 1070 news radio in Los Angeles asked Dr. Messonnier: “Is the Chinese government leveling with you? Are they telling you the truth? Have they given you the straight dope, so to speak, as to what you need to know about the coronavirus?”

Dr. Messonnier responded: “In terms of the Chinese government there has been a WHO [World Health Organization] team on the ground in China as well as in Wuhan. There are data coming out from those efforts. We have a lot of information from China.” 

Unfortunately for Craig Fiegener and other reporters, Dr. Messonnier did not reveal any of the information the CDC has from China. Messonnier’s non-answer might have left them wondering whether the CDC defers to the WHO, which is part of the United Nations. Dr. Messonnier did not say. A reporter from CNN named Ben asked her what information the CDC was “specifically giving the president and the White House about the current state of the coronavirus outbreak.” 

“One hypothesis,” Dr. Messonnier said, “is that we could be hopeful that this could potentially be seasonal,” like other viral respiratory diseases including influenza, decreasing in spring and summer. “And so we could certainly be optimistic that this disease will follow suit.” A hypothesis is a supposition based on limited evidence. The CNN reporter might think the CDC would be dealing in actual hard data, but he didn’t get any.

As the CDC explains, Dr. Messonnier, an MD, began her career with the CDC in 1995 as “an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer in the Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases (DDID).” The Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) deploys “officers” around the world, including China, but did not detect the coronavirus or prevent its arrival in the United States. So maybe that’s why Dr. Messonnier failed to answer questions about China’s truthfulness on the coronavirus.


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