As many as a third of the world's population at risk of swine flu
One in three people throughout the world is likely to catch swine flu within months, according to British researchers.
The outbreak has the potential to become a full pandemic, its full effect on Britain will not be known until the annual autumn-winter flu season this year.
In the first detailed analysis of the spread of the virus, researchers at London’s Imperial College conclude it is milder than the Spanish flu, which claimed about 50 million lives in 1918.
‘This virus really does have full pandemic potential,’ said author Prof Neil Ferguson. ‘It is likely to spread around the world in the next six to nine months and when it does so it will affect about one third of the world’s population. To put that into context, normal seasonal flu every year probably affects around ten per cent of the world’s population.’
So far, 68 people in Britain have been confirmed to have swine flu, including two children. Worldwide, there have been 61 deaths and 5,250 cases.
Prof Ferguson, who sits on the World Health Organisation’s emergency committee for the outbreak, told the Guardian that the international community should decide this week whether to switch vaccine-production capacity away from seasonal flu to concentrate on swine flu.
‘I am not predicting 3-4 million (deaths). That was what happened in 1957. The world is a very different place today.’