Lords criticise government’s bird flu plans

The government’s contingency plans to tackle a possible bird flu outbreak in the UK have been criticised by a House of Lords committee.

Lord Broers, chairman of the Science and Technology Committee, warned that a flu pandemic “looks likelier now than at any time since the 1960s” and that although Britain was ahead of many other countries in its plans, it “could still do better”.

The committee said that it was “alarmed” at the potential risk of disruption to food supplies, in the wake of an outbreak, and said that more advice needed to be provided for healthcare workers.

The committee said that Britain needed to strengthen its support of international surveillance of the bird flu in Asia, where 71 people have been killed by the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus.

A rapid response plan was also needed in the event of an outbreak of a new strain in the virus which could pass easily between humans, the report suggested, and it also urged the government to invest more into research into anti-viral drugs and vaccines.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced the establishment of a new Cabinet committee to deal with bird flu this week.

The government is stockpiling 14.6 million doses of anti-viral drug Tamiflu, as a preventative measure.


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