SOURCE: Icenews

November 29, 2007 05:18 ET

Flu Pandemic Looming

Signs that the UK government is expecting a major flu outbreak have grown following the launch of a new public health campaign.

LONDON--(Marketwire - November 29, 2007) - The UK Government yesterday launched a major communications campaign to educate the general public on how to avoid catching a cold or the flu, Icenews reports.

The campaign under the theme 'Catch it, Bin it, Kill it' is part of the Department of Health's 'new flu pandemic plan' that was initiated on the 22nd November by Health Secretary Alan Johnson.

Alarm bells have been ringing in Whitehall since the summer when Australia experienced one of its worst flu seasons in years. The number of flu victims in Australia tripled this year with 800 people dying in five weeks alone in New South Wales.

Like the UK, Australia has had several winters of mild flu outbreaks which have left people more vulnerable to infection. The flu virus follows a distinct pattern and outbreaks in Australia are nearly always mirrored in the UK around four months later.

The Department of Health said in a press release that it was "very likely that we will face another [flu pandemic] sometime in the future with little warning and therefore need to be as prepared as possible." Around 12,000 people die in the UK each year from the flu.

The new initiative encourages the public to practise correct hygiene procedures when coughing and sneezing to prevent germs from spreading. The campaign will run until spring 2008 and include adverts on buses, trains, the London Underground and posters in shopping centres and other public places.

The announcement comes on the back of a revelation by one of the inventors of the flu vaccine, Dr Graeme Laver, that the flu jab will do little to stop a highly likely flu pandemic.

"I have never been very impressed with its efficacy," the Australian scientist said. "It is better than nothing and I wouldn't want to advise people not to take it, but you can't rely on it doing any good."

Whilst the Government is doubling its stockpile of antiviral medicines, pharmacists have seen a jump in sales of the natural flu remedy Sambucol. Recent lab research found Sambucol to be highly effective against both Type A & B of the flu virus, as well as the H5N1 strain of bird flu.

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