Although the last two winters have brought relatively mild strains of flu to Britain, experts have warned the government it needs to plan for a virulent flu outbreak that could claim nearly one hundred thousand lives.
Many people could be killed in an outbreak of a new kind of superbug which would resist antibiotics and antiviral drugs, according to a government report.
Details of the report revealed that “much of modern medicine” could become unsafe because diseases are becoming defiant to modern drugs. As viruses continually mutate, scientists say it is only a matter of time before an even more powerful strain emerges.
Pandemic influenza has been ranked the highest threat – along with a major terrorist attack – to the UK. There is increasing concern over the inevitability of these future Ebola-like outbreaks. Dr Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance, a scientific organisation that researches environmental factors that raise disease threats in humans, said:
“We’re going to see more of these. We estimate there will be five new emerging diseases every year and this adds to the ones already out there”.
The government document, called the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies, labels the dangers of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the UK as “particularly serious”, and that infections are expected to increase sharply within the next twenty years.
Dr David Nabarro, a leading expert on public health and international development, said the world needed a “systematic” prevention and response plan for new pandemic outbreaks.
“It is surprising to me, given the nature of the threat, that government investment is so low, compared with investment in, for example, potential terrorist threats where the investment is generally higher,” Dr Nabarro, who also spearheaded the UN’s response to the Ebola outbreak, said.