Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

London Is Put on Alert for Bird Flu Pandemic; [Pounds Sterling]33m Vaccines on Order as Plans Announced to Close Public Transport

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

London Is Put on Alert for Bird Flu Pandemic; [Pounds Sterling]33m Vaccines on Order as Plans Announced to Close Public Transport

Article excerpt

Byline: MARK PRIGG

PLANS are being drawn up at the highest level to deal with a flu pandemic in London.

Sue Atkinson, director of public health for the capital, warned today that the threat must be taken seriously.

The Government also announced that it had awarded contracts worth [pounds sterling]33 million to two companies to make a vaccine against bird flu in humans.

Amid fears that it could mutate into a form that can spread from human to human, Mrs Atkinson revealed that: . A "prompt document" had been circulated to local authorities in London asking them to plan for the shutdown of public transport, the breakdown of food and water supplies and the closure of financial markets.

. Ways of controlling the movement of Tube and bus passengers were being investigated.

. Plans were being made on how to cope with large numbers of people being struck down by illness.

Mrs Atkinson said: "We believe two million people could contract it, and on average they would be out of action for five to eight days.

"That will obviously have a major effect on everyday life, with a lot of companies struggling to cope, so we have been drawing up plans to deal with this for a long time. Our worst case scenario also shows that up to 50,000 extra deaths could occur because people would have no immunity to the virus."

London's dense population and major movements of people every day could cause it to be at the heart of a pandemic.

British pharmaceutical firms Chiron and Baxter were today commissioned by the Department of Health to come up with 3.5 million doses of a vaccine to protect humans against the H5N1 strain. However, as scientists do not yet know which mutation of the virus will spread among humans, the vaccine will be used for further research.

It could also be used to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers before a specific pandemic vaccine can be developed. …

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