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The ‘extreme risk’ of a flu pandemic spreading in the UK will be significantly increased as tourists flood to the capital this summer in time for the Olympics.
Britain is already one of the most vulnerable countries in the world when it comes to the spread of flu viruses, second only to Singapore in its ranking due to its highly populated cities and the extremely mobile population.
The increase in tourists during the Olympic Games is predicted to reach 5.3 million and many of them will arrive from other high-risk countries, such as South Korea, the Netherlands or Germany.
There is little natural immunity against the strain of influenza known as H5N1 or bird flu, which is highly contagious and can in some cases prove deadly due to complications. The World Health Organisation has warned that should the infection rate grow, the entire world population could be at risk.
H1N1 or swine flu, is also a source of worry for analysts at Maplewood, where the risk assessment study was conducted. People in the UK can currently only be vaccinated against swine flu on the NHS if they are in “high risk groups”, leaving the majority of the population vulnerable as it can be spread extremely easily, through surfaces, dirty tissues or sneezes.
The high levels of contagion could become a problem during the summer, when an estimated 800,000 people will be using London’s public transport every day. However, researchers have also placed Britain within the ten countries most likely to withstand a flu outbreak.
Our immune levels in the UK in conjunction with strong political guidance put us in a much better position to deal with a pandemic than countries in South East Asia, such as China.