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Monday 18th June 2018

UK flu pandemic risk

8th August 2008

A flu pandemic has been highlighted as the gravest threat to UK security.

The National Risk Register, until now a secret document, claims up to 750,000 people could die as a consequence of a pandemic scale outbreak.

The document assesses national risks and their potential impact, with threat identified to transport, computer, and communications systems.

But the flu pandemic has now emerged as potentially the gravest risk to UK security, affecting up to half the UK’s population and having an impact significantly wider than a terrorist attack.

Britain has a stockpile of the antiviral drug Tamiflu to treat a quarter of the population with estimates putting UK deaths at between 50,000 and 750,000.

The last major pandemic, the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918-19, claimed 228,000 lives in the UK and up to 40 million globally.

The report says: "Experts agree that there is a high probability of another influenza pandemic occurring but it is impossible to forecast its exact timing or the precise nature of its impact."

Social and economic consequences, it says, would impact on essential services leading to shortages and difficulties in distributing goods.

While a terrorist attack or an electronic attack on computer and communication systems were identified as being more likely in the National Risk Register document, they would not have the widespread impact of a flu pandemic.

Security Minister Lord West rejected suggestions that publication of the register might cause unnecessary alarm while think tank IPPR said it was aimed at encouraging people to think about their response to major emergencies.


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