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London 2012 Olympics could result in flu pandemic

Health experts are warning that because of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics this summer, Great Britain is at an ‘extreme risk of a seriou...

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|Apr 3|magazine8 min read

Health experts are warning that because of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics this summer, Great Britain is at an ‘extreme risk’ of a serious flu pandemic.

According to research published today, Britain has been ranked as second in the world for the speed at which illness, disease and infection could spread across England, Wales and Scotland.

Singapore was ranked as number one, but Maplecroft analysts feel the huge influx of tourists to London during the Games will make the UK vulnerable to an outbreak of swine or avian flu.

However, despite the risk, the report found that Britain was one of the top 10 countries in the world to cope with and manage a flu outbreak.

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Between July and September, when the Olympics and Paralympics will be on, an estimated 5.3 million extra tourists will visit the Britain.

Many of these travellers are expected to arrive from countries where flu outbreaks are likely to occur.

Meanwhile, the public transport system in London – including tubes and buses – is an ideal platform for viruses to breed and spread and during the Games and it will receive 800,000 more users than normal.

“South East Asia is the region where an influenza pandemic is most likely to emerge,” said Alyson Warhurst, chief executive of Maplecroft, to the Metro newspaper.

“People travelling from these high risk countries for the London Olympic Games have the potential to heighten the risks for the UK if an outbreak were to occur.

“Such an influx of visitors exacerbates the already substantial risk of influenza spread in the country,” she said.

“It is therefore vital that the UK maintains its strong ability to manage outbreaks through strategic approaches, such as UK Pandemic Preparedness Strategy 2011.”

To cope with the risk of a flu outbreak and pandemic, the UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) is in the process of setting up one of the biggest health surveillance systems in the world.

The system will be used to alert healthcare professionals of any signs of illness or unusual infectious diseases and will monitor UK hospital admissions and calls to NHS health advice lines.

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