Britain was preparing for a ‘flu pandemic’ 20 years ago

More than twenty years before Covid, UK health officials feared the “imminent” arrival of a “flu pandemic”. This is what we read in some files from the Archives of Northern Ireland published today, including a document sent from London calling on local health care to prepare for an emergency.

In a scenario that was in some ways experienced with the current pandemic, reference was made to the appearance of a virus from the Far East in 1997 and the series of measures to be adopted in Great Britain, including the possible closure of schools, invitation home To live on, widespread vaccinations and limits on international travel.

At that time, the first cases of avian influenza (H5N1) were transmitted to humans after the species jump, which caused some deaths in Hong Kong, but the outbreak was eventually ended by mass feeding of chickens. It is customary for states to prepare and update anti-epidemic plans from time to time, but in this case the details appear in the sense of what is happening today.

The document lists conditions that, if coexisted, suggest an impending pandemic: the emergence of a new strain of influenza virus with a marked antigenic variation; a high percentage of vulnerable people in the population, ie those without immunity to the new virus from either vaccination or previous infection with a similar virus; There is evidence that the new virus can spread to humans and cause disease.

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About the Author: Forrest Morton

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