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Britain Now Has 'Crisis' Flu Epidemic
Jan 8, 2000

             Britain's flu crisis is now at epidemic levels, according to the Government's Chief Medical Officer. Professor Liam Donaldson said that 300 people in every 100,000 now have the bug, and described Britain as being in the grip of a "serious epidemic". The scale of the problem is thought to be much greater than statistics suggest because of the thousands of people calling the helpline NHS Direct - thus bypassing surgeries - and using drop-in health centres.
          Prof Donaldson said there were probably twice as many people suffering from flu as official figures indicated, and that  it had hit "epidemic proportions". "There's a hidden element to this epidemic. We feel it's a lot higher and climbing. We think we are in for the big one," he told The Sunday Telegraph.
          He added that there was also under-reporting of the outbreak because many "spotter" surgeries used to compile flu statistics were closed over the holiday. A Department of Health spokeswoman said the official statistics showed there were currently 144 people in every 100,000 suffering from flu. As the usual gauge of an epidemic was 400 people in every 100,000, she said, the flu crisis was therefore not being officially treated as an epidemic by the Government.
          But she added: "Professor Donaldson is happy to stick by his version that this is an epidemic. He believes it is many more than 144 per 100,000. "It is very confusing and it depends on which definition you choose. Professor Donaldson has looked at his graph and said it is a serious epidemic."
          Britain Has DOUBLE The Number Of Reported Flu Cases
          By Jon Craig - Political Editor

          Britain's flu crisis is at epidemic levels and twice as bad as shown by official figures.
          The Government's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Liam Donaldson, yesterday admitted that 300 people in every  100,000 now have flu - and the number is rising.
          Despite ministers' claims to the contrary, he said the reality is that Britain IS in the grip of a "serious epidemic". The millennium is partly to blame for the severity of the outbreak because people have been celebrating in big groups.
          The full extent of the bug's hold on the nation - there are now nearly 200,000 victims, making it the worst outbreak in 10 years - was revealed by Prof Donaldson after the NHS faced       criticism over a desperate shortage of intensive care beds. He told the Sunday Express exclusively that he was speaking out not only to show how bad the situation is, but also to claim that, despite the mounting pressure, the NHS is coping as best it can.
          Prof Donaldson said the true toll is more than double the 144 cases per 100,000 people shown in figures published by the Royal College of General Practitioners on Thursday.
          It is the highest recent figure since 1989-90, nearly double the average in the past decade and five times the number two winters ago. The worst ever was a worldwide epidemic in 1918-19 which killed 40 million people.
          Prof Donaldson said the official figures are wrong because they only include people who have been to their doctor and not those who rang the NHS Direct helpline or treated themselves.
          He said: "It's a much higher level this year than normal and much higher than the official figures suggest. My estimate is that it's in the ballpark of 300 per 100,000 and we may see a few weeks before it peaks.
          "I don't think we have hit the peak yet. I don't think it will get up to the 600 figure of 1989-90. That was a massive epidemic. But it's extremely serious. It's the second worst year I have seen in nearly 30 years in medicine."
          He said this year's virus, which originated in Australia, was particularly virulent and hit old people hardest. Codenamed Sydney, some doctors believe it may have been brought to Britain by Australian rugby supporters attending last year's World Cup. Prof Donaldson said: "The millennium has made a difference, too. Influenza spreads like wildfire. In conditions where you get lots of people together it would tend to spread more rapidly."
          The Department of Health defines a flu epidemic as 400 cases per 100,000. But asked if Britain is in the grip of an epidemic, Prof Donaldson said: "It's a question of definition. But you've     got to call it a serious epidemic because the numbers are high and there's a hidden element, due to the calls to NHS Direct and people looking after themselves."
          Despite criticism of a shortage of beds and allegations of patients being treated in car parks and being sent to Calais, Prof Donaldson said the NHS was coping remarkably well under very difficult circumstances. But he admitted: "We have got to make a bigger push on vaccination in future. It's not 100 per cent effective, it's more a case of protecting vulnerable people.
          "But we need to look at the organisation of vaccination, such as sending reminders to people. There's enough vaccine out there."
          Prof Donaldson also appealed to flu sufferers to ring NHS Direct rather than their GP or hospital.
          He also had some advice for sufferers: "It's not a very pleasant thing, but it's something that clears up. You need to go to bed and take plenty of drinks and paracetamol and rest until you        get better. Unless you feel you are getting a lot worse and very ill with complications, that's the approach to take rather than dialling for an ambulance or contacting your doctor."
          Backing Prof Donaldson, John Chisholm of the British Medical Association, said: "GPs have been seeing large numbers of patients with influenza-like illnesses over the Christmas and millennium period and since. It has created a considerable surge in demand.
          "Many of the patients that GPs have been seeing are more unwell and ill for longer than expected and some have required hospital attention. "Despite the heavy demands on GPs' services, GPs and hospitals are coping well with the demands placed on them."

 (Note - Let's assume a scientist somewhere has the ability to create, or graft onto, a fast-spreading influenza virus the genetic material which will begin to produce a deadly toxin within the infected person that would be fatal to the infected victim within a day or two. That technology has, in fact, existed for 10-20 years. Now, consider how fast a flu epidemic this one. It would only take one madman with a genetically-altered flu virus to wipe out most of the world's population in a matter of weeks. -Jeff Rense)

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