Criminals Exploiting Swine Flu Outbreak?

On 30 April 2009, the INTERPOL warned of criminals potentially exploiting the swine flu outbreak through spam emails and websites selling illegal, unlicensed or fake medicine. Below is the media release; click here for the original post:

Unlicensed and illegal internet pharmacies take orders and payments with no assurance of the goods being delivered and those customers receiving goods have no guarantee of the safety, quality or effectiveness of the drugs, thereby seriously putting their health at risk.

Transactions via this type of unregulated sites also greatly increase the chances of cybercriminals stealing an individual’s credit card details and users’ computers being infected with password stealing viruses.

“It has been seen time and time again that following a global threat or natural disaster, criminals exploit the situation for their own financial gain and in this situation they are searching to take advantage of people’s fears about their health,” said INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services, Jean-Michel Louboutin.

“By responding to spam swine flu emails or attempting to order medication online through illegal and unregulated websites, people are risking their wellbeing and their money.

“Any unsolicited emails containing deals or links to websites offering swine flu-related information packs or medicines should be treated with extreme caution,” added Mr Louboutin.

Internet security firms are reporting that around three to four per cent of spam mails currently being circulated are related to swine flu, with this number expected to increase. Similarly, hundreds of new web pages related to swine flu have been created in the past week.

Criminal organizations and individuals involved in the production of counterfeit pharmaceuticals may also attempt to take advantage of the current health situation through the manufacture of fake antiviral drugs.

“Any product which can be manufactured can be counterfeited, and while there is so far no evidence to suggest that fake antivirals are being manufactured in response to the swine flu outbreak, this is an area which we will continue to monitor in order to identify any cases if or when they emerge,” said Mr Louboutin.

Anyone seeking official updates and information about swine flu should consult the website of the World Health Organization (WHO) which is leading the global response to the outbreak.

For individual countries’ guidelines people should consult their national health authority website.

For flu treatment and devices, check out the CDC’s Swine Flu: Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of Medical Products and Devices page.

What are the products currently under EUA?

Tamiflu (oseltamivir)

Relenza (zanamivir)

Swine Flu Test Kit

Click here for CDC’s What’s New on Swine Flu site. You can keep up with updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the swine flu (now called H1N1) flu investigation by signing up for email updates, subscribing to RSS, or following CDC on Twitter.