Flu epidemic may be hit by recession
Posted by hannahflynn on April 27, 2009
The recent emergence of ‘swine flu’ in Mexico should come as no shock, the WHO has been considering a global flu pandemic a matter of when not if, since the emergence of bird-flu in 1997, but we should start to question how prepared we are for the potential consequences of this.
As influenza pandemics are hard to predict, governments can only prepare for them through the stockpiling of flu drugs (like Tamiflu) and vaccines. This is expensive business.
Dr Merion Evans, an epidemiologist from Cardiff University, is concerned preparation may take a back seat during the recession.
“The government might be less ready to put a lot of money into stockpiling medicines when it’s unclear how beneficial they are.”
A vaccine cannot be produced until it’s known what strain is causing a flu pandemic. We currently know that H1N1 is responsible for the epidemic in Mexico, but until a few days ago we did not know if it would be H5N1, the strain currently known as ‘bird-flu’. Therefore pharmaceutical plants must always be ready to go at any time.
“That’s a lot of investment into faculties for producing large amounts of vaccine in a short period of time. That may be a victim of the credit crunch,” Evans warns.
We are overdue for a flu pandemic and increased globalisation could have a disastrous effect, as the virus is able to spread faster.
Flu pandemics can also surprise us as it’s not always older people who are the most susceptible. “The 1918 ‘Spanish flu’ epidemic was more serious in young people, this is as older people have been exposed to more strains of flu and are resistant to them, but younger generations do not have this advantage.”