Monday, April 10, 2006


The UK Government's chief scientific advisor has claimed the chances of the avian influenza virus mutating into a form that could be passed easily between humans, and therefore kicking off a pandemic, is "a very low possibility".

Professor Sir David King made the announcement as a slow-burn panic spread across the UK after the discovery of dead swan infected with the bird flu virus.

More than 3500 people flooded the phonelines of the Department of Rural Affairs on Friday and Saturday of last week.

But it wasn't just the discovery of the dead swan that fired up the concerns. There was also the media coverage of a leaked government report that stated a pandemic could kill as many as 100,000 children in the UK alone.

Sir David King used an interview on the UK's ITV to try and hose down the fears and concerns of Brits, but his reference to the chances of a pandemic breaking out as "a very low possibility" did little to calm nerves as he revealed this in the context of the contingency plans of the government.

So they are planning for the likelihood of a pandemic breakout of avian influenza, but that planning is chugging along on the expectation that the chances of such an event occuring are "very low," which is not what the Brits wanted to hear, according to numerous polls published by the BBC, Sky News and the tabloid press.

Sir David Keith : "The one swan doesn't mean it has arrived here. We need to see more evidence of spread before we can say that it has arrived in the UK."

He also revealed that the contingency plans placed particular emphasis on how to protect children from possible exposure to a pandemic form of the virus. Children are particularly vulnerable to the virus, scientists believe, and Sir David said that even if only one school student or teacher became infected, then all the schools in the area would be closed for as long as ten weeks.

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