Olympics 'will increase the risk of ‘flu pandemic’

11th of May 2012
Olympics 'will increase the risk of ‘flu pandemic’

The influx of overseas visitors to the London Olympics will elevate the already "extreme" risk of a ‘flu pandemic spreading in the UK, according to a report.

The country is said to be at such high risk because of its densely-packed cities, highly mobile population and popularity as a global travel hub.

The study, by UK analysts Maplecroft, ranked Britain as second only to Singapore for its vulnerability to the rapid spread of an influenza outbreak. The report concluded that the Olympics in July and August will increase the danger of ‘flu spreading because an extra 5.3 million foreign tourists - many from countries where any pandemic is likely to emerge - are expected to visit Britain.

Other countries said to be at "extreme" risk in Maplecroft's influenza pandemic risk index are South Korea, the Netherlands and Germany.

However, Britain was also judged to be one of the 10 countries best placed to withstand any outbreak thanks to its strong governance, effective health infrastructure and good communications networks.

The H1N1 swine flu outbreak in 2009-10 claimed 457 lives in the UK. Experts believe more severe pandemics may occur in the future, possibly as a result of a mutated bird flu strain.

The Maplecroft report found that South East Asia was most likely to see a new flu pandemic emerge, with the region containing six of the 10 countries at highest risk. The authors expressed particular concern about China whose growing prosperity has led to higher consumption of meat and therefore a rise in livestock numbers.


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