BBC Panorama Flu Pandemic - What is the government doing ?
Watching the brilliant but ultimately really terrifying BBC drama documentary "Flu Pandemic" last night on Panorama has left my mind today full of questions, but has also left me wondering why the government in this country and others around the world are so ill prepared.
The program used experts and a fictionalised incident of blird flu mutating and spreading in a pandemic fashion, as it surely will at some point in the future, to highlight issues that people inthe UK need to know about. The most worrying aspect for me were :
1) It will take 4-6 months at best for the first vaccine doses to become available if a flu pandemic occurs.
2) Worldwide, we can only produce enough vaccine in any calender year for 9% of the world population. It would therefore take 11 years to vaccinate the whole world.
3) We can expect a break down in law and order as people take the law in to their own hands in oder to get tamiflu, the drug the government are stockpiling for 25% of the population but there is no guarantee it will have any affect at all !
4) There will be food shortages as people don't go to work, shops close, delivery drivers stop driving and the country comes to a halt.
5) Decisions will have to be made about who gets the vaccine or not. Projections show that children and the elderly will be last on the list, not the first.
6) We can expect a death rate of between 1% and 10% of the population. That will, as one US expert on the program put it, mean vans driving around collecting dead people from doorsteps because our hospitals will be full.
Why, given all the facts, are the government doing nothing and why are we not being informed. One colleague of mine today felt it was over dramatised because he said "I thought all this bird flu thing had died off". The fact is that people still don't know that it is not bird flu we should be scared of, it is a new strain of human flu that will eventually mutate with bird flu that we should be scared of.
Oh, and finally, if you survive this flu, you face the very real chance of being struck down by a sort of sleeping palsy which affected millions of people in the 1920's after the last "Spanish" flu pandemic in 1919/1920, which killed millions of people.
To my mind, the government have their head in the sand. When it hits us, which it will (flu pandemics have happened in the past and do so about once a century), the only way we will guarantee maximum survival of the population is to make sure people are prepared. yes, the facts are scary, really scary, but everyone should watch this program and be prepared for the worst.
Watch the program HERE on the web via the BBC website.