By Max Clarke
Flu season is on us once more, with renewed fears of a return of the dreaded ‘swine flu’.
David Prosser, from the independent, reported that during the 2009 swine flu panic, GSK received an estimated £700 Million from the Government to produce the 60 million vaccines requested for the country. When NHS treatment, advertising campaigns and other costs are taken into account, estimated costs rise to £1 Billion.
The H1N1 strain of the flu virus which originated in Mexico, and was dubbed ‘swine flu’ by media commentators, soon spread worldwide; triggering speculations about an imminent and deadly epidemic.
After the UK outbreak peaked in April 2009, 457 deaths had been reported; and this year, in the past 3 months, a further 10 deaths from the virus have sparked renewed fears of epidemic. Alarming as these deaths may seem, however, the figures are dwarfed by the 4,000 - 8,000 deaths each year as a result of seasonal flu.
Commentators have even labelled last year’s outbreak a blessing, as it led to much more widespread flu vaccination, which in the end led to far fewer deaths from traditional, seasonal flu as the preceding years.
On top of the alarming death toll from seasonal flu, is the staggering cost to the economy: it is responsible for the highest number of sick days taken- 7.6 million in 2009, costing employers an estimated £1.35 billion.