Azara Blog: The bird flu is coming, the bird flu is coming

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Date published: 2005/10/16

The BBC says:

A bird flu pandemic will hit Britain - but not necessarily this winter, the chief medical officer has said.

Sir Liam Donaldson said a deadly outbreak would come when a strain of bird flu mutated with human flu.

He told the BBC's Sunday AM show it would probably kill about 50,000 people in the UK, but the epicentre of any new strain was likely to be in East Asia.

The UK has so far stockpiled 2.5m doses of anti-viral drugs - and may restrict travel if there is an outbreak.

If a new strain did hit the UK before a vaccine was created, Sir Liam said an extra 50,000 would probably die - and a death toll of 750,000 was "not impossible".

"In a normal winter flu year... flu actually kills in excess of 12,000 people," Sir Liam said.

"But if we had a pandemic, the problem would be that our existing vaccines don't work against it, we would have to develop a new vaccine, and people don't have natural immunity because it hasn't be around before."

The total death toll depended on whether the mutated strain was a mild or serious one, he said.

However, Dr Martin Wiselka, consultant in infectious diseases at Leicester Royal Infirmary, said a death toll of 50,000 was a "complete guess".

"It could be worse, it could be better. I think initially it could be worse than that," he said.

"When a new strain arrives it tends to be more virulent but then it slows down. But the honest answer is we don't know."

Media hysteria generation in action. Of course flu *could* kill 50000 people (which is not that high if 12000 people normally die of flu every winter). And the killer flu *could* arrive this year. Well, a meteor *will* crash down on the UK but not necessarily this winter, and it *could* kill 50000 people. It *could* even kill 750000 people. The sky is falling.

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