What can the government do to control the spread of bird flu in the UK?
A flu pandemic is likely to hit the UK, according to England's chief medical officer.
Sir Liam Donaldson's warning follows reports from the UN that a bird flu pandemic could kill 150 million people worldwide. There is no indication of when it could hit the UK.
Sir Liam said it was difficult to build up vaccine supplies as they only stop certain strains of the virus. Instead anti-viral drugs are being stockpiled in anticipation of the disease reaching the UK.
Are you worried about the bird flu hitting the UK? Is enough being done to minimise the threat?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
I think the media has a responsibility to report facts, not sensation. However, the Government should have proper plans in place and should make it clear generally what will happen in the event of a serious outbreak. It needs to be done properly otherwise people will go into panic mode and start clearing supermarket shelves, thus leading to possible food shortages and fighting. Employers need to have a contingency as well, especially those which are located in places hard to get to.
Neil Small, Scotland
I think we should start taking this seriously and informing the public of what would happen if this virus hits the UK. The government needs to make it a high profile issue.
David, Chester England (currently in USA)
While we have a right to be concerned about this we could do a lot to help out to reduce illness that can be prevented. Making sure we eat healthily and don't smoke is a good start. Start. The money saved could then go to prevent pandemics from happening in the first place.
Liam, Worcester, UK
Far from being 'Alarmist rubbish' we should take the warning very seriously. It should not be forgotten that the influenza pandemic of 1918/9 killed more people than the entire First World War. Today, with a more mobile world population, the infection would travel far more quickly. The Government is right to warn us.
Paul, Chelmsford England
I feel very worried about the situation, especially because I have a child and I think children are more vulnerable. My question, can we get the vaccination now?
Francia Montoya, London
Is this just not another case of the experts jumping on the bandwagon again to promote vaccine production in high numbers, making fat profits for pharmaceutical companies on the back of hysteria
Mick Jones, Lincoln
I'm not worried at all, i remember watching a program about SARS and they basically said it was airborne AIDS, which is obviously not true. How much of the scare mongering about bird flu is false?
Dale, Swansea, Wales
It's a little naive for one to assume that this wont' come to anything such as in the case of SARS. If this virus mutates into a human variant then it will definitely spread, just like flu does every year and most people get it. I want to see action on this (such as a vaccine) as I have to admit I am pretty scared.
Barry Johnson, Portsmouth, UK
The last major post WW1 flu pandemic killed many more than that conflict itself. If this virus does mutate further (as it has done), it will probably begin in earnest in Indonesia, where chickens loiter in most every village home. Culling their fowl is akin to dispensing with their kin. This flu will proliferate. Mutation is as natural as change itself. We are due, so it is best to be prepared.
Geoff Beach , Bangkok
It is interesting but typical that many people refuse to accept the enormity of this situation. The 1918 pandemic was erased from the collective consciousness even after it happened. This killed 40 million people in a world far less populated than today. There is no practical benefit to panicking as the vast majority will have very little they can do about it anyway. It is best to be forewarned though. I hope that even if there will be no vaccine there will be extra supplies of pain/symptom relief to help with the large amount of untreated cases there will be. I am personally more concerned about the aftermath than the pandemic. The Chinese would call these interesting times!
We need to recognise our own complicity in the spread of disease in farm animals. Cramming birds together five to a cage is a recipe for easy transmission of such diseases: these are animals whose immunes systems are massively weakened by stress and a thoroughly artificial diet. BSE, foot in mouth, antibiotic-resistant infections, now avian flu: these conditions pose a massive risk to their health and ours. Furthermore, reports from Thailand of attempts to combat the disease brought us tales of birds being burned in their hundreds of thousands, many of them alive and fully conscious. Many of us in the UK remember similar inhumane culls for foot in mouth and BSE. Is this the best we can do?
Ben Godwin, London, UK
Is enough being done? Time for some more guessing from people who don't know! The general public will only know if enough was done once it's happened.
Tony Sampson, Herts, UK
I have to say that I'm rather less than trembling in my boots. I remember a couple of years ago exactly the same doom merchants were warning us that SARS was going to be the next big thing to overrun the world and annihilate humankind. No such thing happened. Admittedly, a goodly number of poor people in Asia succumbed, and that's always sad of course, but the threatened global pandemic it was not. So forgive me being sceptical, but I'll believe it when I see it.
Steve Payne, Leicester, UK
First off, the number has been overestimated. However it all fits in with the need to watch your own health, as almost all my bouts of flu etc struck when I wasn't getting enough sleep and allowed myself to become extremely rundown.
Ken, London, UK
Sir Liam should realize that epidemiological predictions as to the severity of bird flu would be multiplied many times if a biological weapon were deliberately involved. Bird flu could be considered a test case, as to how the outbreak of a biological war could be countered quickly and effectively enough to safeguard our society. Of course, in war, the attack is sudden, and the lethal agent might be unknown rather than known, so we have a strong intelligence advantage against bird flu. How then does Sir Liam propose that we defend against its attack?
John Holmes, Canada
Why isn't the government assuring us that there will be sufficient anti-viral drugs easily available for all of the population? That would seem to be the least that should be done. I can't even get a flu vaccine jab on the NHS, so have no faith that I'd get anti-viral drugs.
Jane Bray, Cambs, UK
To give us notification of a possible serious health threat but then not to tell us what actions we can take to protect our health promotes a lot of worry. I believe we need much more information even if some of it would be, at the moment, speculative. For example, should I continue to feed the hundreds of birds I see in my garden every day? I believe people would also like to know if the government has sufficient serum for the population or would it be selective? And for those of us who live on the north Wales coast, what's the likelihood of the migrating geese and ducks, that visit us just about now, being infected?
Jeannie Kressin, Hawarden, Clwyd, GB
We have had so many horror stories drawn up by the media that a lot of people are beginning to ignore them. What starts out as hundreds then thousands realistically turns to out to be a small handful in most cases. Is this just another media story being exaggerated by specially trained doom and gloom reporters?
Lee W, London
This is alarmist rubbish. It is quite hard to catch bird flu; the latest victim in Indonesia had eaten raw duck's blood as a delicacy. We just don't know if a bird flu virus will cross with a human flu virus in the manner scientists suggest might happen. But quite a lot of things 'might' happen and don't. All this "Ye're all doooooomed" stuff is a case of irresponsible scientists talking up a mere possibility into a devastating certainty to get an increase in research funds.
John, London, UK
I do wonder if battery farming of fowl has contributed to this disease. I am also concerned as chicken is one of the most popular, and cheap, sources of meat. What can we do? What is the government doing?
Tom, Suffolk, UK
There isn't much you can do about it. Somebody is going to get it and will spread it. The only thing you can do is try to slow down the spreading of the flu.
Russ, Los Angeles, Ca USA
It's all fear. I grow up with the Cold War and the threat of being annihilated by nuclear weapons, and then there came meteors from outer space, etc, etc. Now the latest scare besides being blown up by a terrorist's bomb, or mugged, or run down by a drunken yobbo, or sent mad by BSE is to be put to death by chickens or their flu. I'm a living wreck - please end it all.
Brian M Keith, Ellesmere, England
In the UK? What about your EU neighbours? It will effect all of us and is not UK-centric.
Robert Hoogstraten, Holland
So far this is looking like Sars 2 - the even scarier virus, ie it has killed very few people yet the whole world is in a panic. AIDS and malaria are preventable and kill millions yet we focus on the obscure because it's hyped by the media and the people who profit from the vaccines.