‘War games’ have exposed serious flaws in government plans for fighting a deadly influenza pandemic, reports Roger Highfield
The first cases appeared in Glasgow in May. During the following months the influenza virus killed a quarter of a million people in Britain. Worldwide, the death toll was about 50 million. One doctor said it was “the most vicious type of pneumonia that has ever been seen”.
Avian threat: a dead swan in the Baltic last February was later found to be infected with the feared H5N1 strain of bird flu which is also seen as a potential menace to human beings
Even though medical science has made great leaps since influenza claimed more lives than the First World War, many experts remain deeply worried. Using mortality data from the 1918-20 pandemic, a team led by Christopher Murray of Harvard University recently predicted that 62 million people – 96 per cent from the developing world – could die within in a year if a similar pandemic were to occur today.
The bottom line is that industry and bureaucrats need to work more closely together, said Dr Samuels, “not just on flu medicines but also ensure the supply of essential non-flu medicines during a pandemic.”