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About thirty years ago there was a BBC drama series about just the sort of scenario anticipated by a bird flu pandemic. Indeed the writers actually used a lethal respiratory illness. Without wishing to cause panic is it time to think about repeating its showing?
Peter Hendy-Ibbs, Cheshire
Why do people keep asking about avian flu? The pandemic not be avian flu but a mutated version which we will catch from other humans; not birds.
James Wickham, Kent
If the best place for flu patients to be is at home, in order to prevent the infection spreading, how are sufferers to receive adequate care, or even a diagnosis, in view of the almost total lack of home visits by GPs now?
Rosemary Wighton, London, UK
If the avian virus recombines with a human strain so that it can then transmit from human to human, it will not be the same virus so we need not expect the level of mortality seen when the avian strain infects humans. Surely all of this is total hysteria?
Allan Henderson, Ottery St Mary, UK
One point seems not to have been made clearly enough, this is especially apparent in the discussion about controlling the contact between humans and birds in the UK: the UK population is not likely going to become infected with bird flu by a human becoming infected by a bird in the UK. The UK population is going to become infected by a human from another country where bird is endemic. Disease, like pollution, is not a great respecter of national borders.
Christopher Edwards, London
I'm quite appalled to see how differently the UK handles the possible bird flu pandemic from my country. Here we get the message that a pandemic is most improbable. Does anyone realises the side-effects of Tamiflu? A lot of people will get very ill from it. I think Tamiflu will do more damage than good.
Kris Ternier, Ghent, Belgium
As a confidence building exercise, which it clearly was, this programme has failed miserably. Most of the experts were allowed to get away with murder. I have never heard so many half-assed questions given so many half-baked answers. As one of the participants commented - if Britain is among the top three for preparedness, then God help the rest.
I've never felt so annoyed watching a TV programme, hence submitting this to the discussion. Never seen such a load of nonsense in all my life. It's all 'ifs' and 'buts' with no hard evidence. No proof of bird flu in the UK, no evidence that bird flu can be passed between birds and humans, unless you work directly with them. Nonsense absolute nonsense. I wish the BBC would stop wasting the licence fee. Anyone who takes this stuff seriously needs their head read.
Having watched the programme tonight I have to say I am quite alarmed.
With regards to Tamiflu and the access to it - our doctors is already stretched to breaking point. You phone on Monday and unless it is a dire emergency you have to wait at least one maybe two weeks for an appointment. I am sure that our doctors would not be able to cope with an influx of patients with flu symptoms, be it bird flu or just people with similar symptoms.
Anita Jones, Luton
I have listened to the questions and the answers given in the programme tonight with great interest and I am confident that all that can be done is being done within the United Kingdom to avert a pandemic.
I thought the questions asked by all of the concerned people were asked with genuine concern which was shared by the experts, who did their best to reassure the questioners in each case.
I think that we should carry on with our lives, obviously keeping a close eye on any developments with bird flu, I personally am not over worried as it seems very unlikely that we as humans are going to catch it.
I must admit however that I do not need to or come into close contact with live birds.
Steve Fuller, Hove, East Sussex, England
Why don't you have, as a guest, someone who isn't paranoid to give your programme some balance ? You provided no evidence that bird flu is imminent - you simply tried scaremongoring - pethetic - no doubt you will go to the back of the queue after SARS and WMD.
Simon, Jersey , UK
The only way that the population of the UK will ever feel that the government is prepared is when they say that they now have enough Tamiflu for every man, woman and child and that we can go to our local chemist and pick it up. However, the chances of that happening are virtually nil.
Ian, Guildford, Surrey
I feel that last night's programme seemed to simply repeat a lot of the messages in the original programme and did not address all the issues.
The answers given by the experts were wishy-washy to say the least and, while I understand they don't wish to panic people, surely prevention is better than trying to find a cure when it might be too late?
The argument that all free-range birds should be put indoors is a good one and was simply brushed aside as being unnecessary. I think that we should put all birds indoors just in case!
Regarding Tamiflu, the chances are that it won't be effective to combat any virus that mutates anyway. A new vaccine will have to be found to attack the new strain which will take many weeks.
Fay, Dartford, England
I watched the programme with great interest, but they still did not make it clear that if you do not come into contact with live birds and the virus is unlikely to be transmitted from human to human, then how will you catch the virus and if you do catch it and you survive, can the virus cause long term damage?
It also failed to say how fast it takes from diagnosing this virus to it becoming potential lethal and the period of confinement to contain the risk of spreading the infection. Surely they must have this information from the countries where it has hit?
Cindy, Tolworth, Surrey
In view of the possibility of the spread of bird flu, would it not be wise to attempt to educate the public regarding personal hygiene. The number of people who sneeze and do not use a handkerchief and those that spit is amazing. Also the washing of hands.
Raymond Klarnett, UK
Is it just me or is Panorama completely ignoring what the experts are saying to whip up concern and add to people's general worries about global catastrophes? Hugh Pennington and the head of communicable disease made it quite clear we are not at any real risk but the asthmatic's comment about needing a mask went unchallenged. Not impressed with the journalistic integrity of this edition.
Lee, Edinburgh, Scotland
I agree with Chris from Northants. This is an 'Op' isn't it? I cannot get answers to obvious practical problems, let alone trying to deal with a load of false or non-existent 'science'.
For example, we are told that children will be told to stay home and schools will be closed. Which means that parents will have to look after them. Which means that a very significant number of people will not go to work, plus plenty of those without kids. Which means that the economy will suffer considerably.
Who decides who should stay in or who will be allowed out? Those allowed out will have been given some form of medication/vaccine, but how? Who will control the quarantine conditions and where? The army? What of those who refuse a vaccine?
So far it seems to me that this info is a prep for getting people worried, so that when an official announcement is made, they all go clamouring for a vaccine shot.
Shaun, Malvern, UK
I worry about the government's decision to stockpile only one anti-viral drug, Tamiflu. Recent reports out of Japan warn of extreme psychological side-effects from taking Tamiflu. And recent data from flu researchers working in Vietnam indicate that H5N1 is actually showing some resistance to Tamiflu.
I think the UK government would be wise to follow the lead of France, Germany, and the US and plan to stockpile both Tamiflu and Relenza over the next 12 months. If H5N1 resistance to Tamiflu grows, the government would then have an effective back-up antiviral drug in Relenza. Recent articles in prestigous medical journals such as The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine also recommend that governments not rely on only one antiviral and to stockpile both Tamiflu and Relenza.
Thomas Hannaford, Oxford, England
As a small poultry keeper (20 birds) I think the bland and blanket statements made about keeping and feeding poultry indoors are quite bizarre.
If this order was made then most "back graden" poultry keepers would have to slaughter their "pets"
If you have ever been in a poultry shed you will find many small "wild birds" in the rafters.
It is almost impossible to keep wild birds seperate - and the cost is inordinate. This smacks of "something must be done" rather than a measure that is or could be effective.
Finally - most if not all of the migrating birds that would carry the virus tend to be waterfowl - not your common garden visitor.
As a previous commentator mentioned - the programme was not "informative" but a vehicle to whip up fear, frenzy and panic. The video conference settings were a joke and took away any gravitas from the debate.
Carl, Shadoxhurst, Kent
I am a poultry farmer and I have suffered a drastic drop in poultry prices because of the hype generated by the media. UK poultry are well isolated from the rest of the world, and the feeling within the industry is that we are unlikely to get bird flu in our flocks. However the public perception is one of fear and panic, worrying about something that might not happen.I was pleased that the programme put it in perspective.
John Rayner, Colchester, Essex
There seem to be a lot of people with their heads in the sand - I think that history is sufficient evidence for us to be concerned, the government certainly are. Sadly last night's programme didn't answer all the questions - especially about availability of anti-viral agents such as Tamiflu. Where did the scientists on the previous programme get their stocks? Companies are stockpiling it for their employees - where are they getting it from?
Graham Wells, Malmesbury, Wiltshire