Any future flu pandemic could last for up to six months, a government minister has admitted.
However, health minister Lord Darzi of Denham said the probable length of an outbreak would give enough time for a targeted vaccine to be produced.
He was responding to a question posed in the House of Lords by Tory Lord Swinfen, who had asked whether there would be enough time in the event of a pandemic to produce a vaccine.
Lord Darzi said: "It is very difficult to predict the exact timings of a pandemic. We are not even sure whether we can get a second wave or third wave of a pandemic.
"The first pandemic in 1918 had a second wave and third wave. The last two in 1957 and 1968 also had a second wave.
"We are predicting in our modelling that it will be six months, which will be enough time to create vaccinations with the strain that is infectious in the first pandemic."
Lord Darzi added that the government had enough stocks of the anti-viral Tamiflu to cover 25% of the population likely to be affected by a pandemic.
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"Absolutely not!!! There are too many people burying their heads in the sand in the UK, most folk don’t even think it's going to happen and quote -"IF" it happens, they all expect the NHS to look after them in such an event. One of the biggest problems that we have in the UK is that there is a lack of news coverage on the subject therefore, people think that the threat has gone away. Unless you go looking for news on pandemic flu or H5N1 on the Internet, you wont hear about it. For instance, in the UK, many are not aware of the ground swill amongst birds in Pakistan and India at the moment where millions of them have had to be culled due to a major H5N1 epidemic. I'm not sure whether it's a case of ignorance is bliss!" - Name and address supplied
"WHO reports Tamiflu-resistant flu in U.S., Canada. (Reuters: 1/Feb/2008) - The main seasonal flu virus in the United States and Canada as well as parts of Europe shows higher resistance to the antiviral drug Tamiflu, raising questions about its potential effectiveness in a human bird flu pandemic."
Resistance to Tamiflu found.
(Financial Times: 4/Feb/2008) - "European public health specialists on Monday identified significant resistance to the drug Tamiflu, casting a shadow over the efficacy of the world's most widely purchased influenza antiviral medicine."
Conclusion: With such inevitable prospects for the future, we must reconsider some aspects of the pandemic preparedness and we should also investigate the reason why the virus is genetically able to resist an attack of Oseltamivir. In consequence, the following questions should be addressed during the planning process: How will citizens get food, supplies, fuel, and access to healthcare services? Will the supply chain be able to maintain the stock of essential consumables and supplies? Will vigilantes develop in neighbourhoods or communities? Will society experience a breakdown? Planning is not the same as preparation" - Dr Michel S.F. Vermeulen, Belgium
"I'm not sure if anyone is prepared..." - Name and address supplied
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