Leading article: Shore up the world's flu defences

Share
Related Topics

This week's outbreak of swine flu has provoked some alarming predictions from medical scientists about the toll a pandemic could take on human life. Some feel that the tone of these predictions has been hyperbolic and unhelpful.

We should certainly resist the urge to mindless panic. But our health authorities are quite right to take the threat seriously. There are some simple realities about this illness which underpin the concerns of the medical profession. The first is that it is spread by a newly mutated virus against which the vast majority of the global population has no natural immunity. The second is that it is extremely contagious.

In time, a vaccine will be produced, but the virus can move ominously fast in the meantime. The fact that it has appeared in 11 countries since the first known case in Mexico early last month shows how quickly it can spread. And the news in recent days of the contraction of swine flu by individuals who did not travel to Mexico (where the virus would appear to have originated) is a significant step in its progression.

It is, of course, good news that some patients have already recovered from swine flu. But, in the event of a pandemic, there could be many – possibly millions – with weakened immune systems who do not pull through.

The objective of governments should be to try to prevent swine flu becoming a pandemic and to deal with the disease effectively if it does. Our own Government appears to be taking the right precautionary measures by isolating patients and launching a public information campaign emphasising the need for hygiene.

By resisting demands for mass distribution of the anti-viral medication Tamiflu, ministers and health officials are also behaving sensibly. There is a danger that swine flu will recede in the warm summer months, but return with a vengeance in the winter flu season. The Government is right to hold back its anti-viral supplies for such circumstances. On a global level, the key is co-operation between governments to help those nations with fewer resources to cope with the virus. This is not charity, but self-interest. Faced with a potential pandemic, the world's defences are only as strong as their weakest links

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

John Rentoul
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...