Hopefully the situation in Mexico won't turn into a flu' pandemic (though the news this morning isn't encouraging), but just a couple of weeks ago we had a briefing email from our Diocese on what to expect if one happened, and how we might respond to it. Good timing, the CofE right on the button as usual....
I won't post all of it, as we're not in a pandemic situation and pray God we won't be, but the opening couple or paragraphs are quite sobering:
Why be prepared
An epidemic of seasonal flu is statistically overdue in the UK. So too is a world wide “pandemic” where a fresh strain of flu breaks out in one country, and spreads through various means to others. They have occurred (with devastating effects) in the past, including 1918 and 1957. In the 1918 “Spanish flu” outbreak, an estimated 100 million people died directly or indirectly from it.
Either event could have a major impact on local churches and church members:
· Key personnel will become ill and may act as carriers, limiting their pastoral availability;
· Services may be cancelled at short notice because of lack of personnel or as a precaution against spreading the virus;
· There will be a major strain on medical services and hospital facilities;
· There will be a higher than normal number of deaths (and hence of funerals);
· Many people will be off work because of their own illness or by caring for ill dependants;
· There will be severe disruption to normal social and commercial activities, causing considerable inconvenience, and probably frustration, anger and even violence.
A pandemic could be especially devastating if a strain of avian (bird) flu which cannot currently be passed from human to human mutates to join with a strain of human flu forming a new strain against which we have no protection. Experts say it is simply a matter of time before this occurs.
So basically a pandemic is, according to the experts, inevitable sooner or later. If it's not the Mexican strain, it will be something else. There are all sorts of consequences to this, from Alastair Darlings budget calculations being even further out (a pandemic will hit the economy hard), to the need to suspend church meetings to avoid passing on the bug - that's already happening in Mexico. It's not something my generation has ever experienced: suddenly the world seems a more precarious place.
Government info here. Helpful BBC Q&A on swine flu here, which suggests that the deaths in Mexico may be down to local factors, and that cases found in other countries have milder symptoms.