Humanity will be unable to stop a killer flu that could take 33 million lives in just 200 days, an expert has said.
Professor Robert Dingwall told The Sun it is very difficult to stop the spread of influenza once it had begun, because people could become infected four days before they displayed a single symptom.
The grim prediction comes just two days after Dr Jonathan Quick, one of the world’s top medical professionals, warned conditions were right for a flu that would wipe out millions to begin spreading immediately.
‘The big one is coming: a global virus pandemic that could kill 33 million victims in its first 200 days,’ he wrote on Tuesday.
A mutated strain of the flu could wipe out 300 million people in just two years, and humanity is powerless to stop it, experts have warned (stock image of flu virus)
Professor Robert Dingwall (pictured) said people could be infected with influenza four days before they displayed a single symptom
‘Within the ensuing two years, more than 300 million people could perish worldwide.
‘At the extreme, with disrupted supply of food and medicines and without enough survivors to run computer or energy systems, the global economy would collapse. Starvation and looting could lay waste to parts of the world.’
Dr Quick warns a mutation of an avian flu could wipe out a significant portion of the globe, as the strain can often mix with influenza in other wild animals before it reaches humans, making it more powerful and sometimes more deadly.
‘Somewhere out there, a flu virus is boiling up in the bloodstream of a bird, bat, monkey or pig, preparing to jump to a human being,’ he wrote.
‘When that combination from birds and beasts finds its way into a person, the resulting new human strain can kill us more easily because it is unknown to us and our bodies have zero immunity to it. This is most likely how the Spanish flu [which killed 100 million in 1918] took hold.’
The oncoming pandemic is expected to be caused by a strain of avian flu, moulded with a strain of another animal’s flu, and will likely originate from a factory farm
Dr Jonathan Quick is Chair of the Global Health Council and says the conditions are right and pandemic could happen ‘tomorrow’
One such new strain, which is believed to be partially responsible for a 40 per cent increase in flu-related deaths in the US and UK, is dubbed the ‘Aussie flu’, because it originated in Australia.
Dr Quick also warns society is setting itself up for the incoming pandemic by continuing to purchase cheap meat from factory farms, which the professor refers to as ‘fetid incubators of disease’.
‘These giant industrial farms were the birthplace of H1N1 swine flu that emerged in 2009 and killed up to an estimated 575,400 people worldwide,’ he wrote, noting the strain originally had three human flu genes before picking up segments of two different bird flus from the farm.
‘Factory farms could very likely be the birthplace of the next killer pandemic. The renegade influenza viruses they spawn could one day annihilate the people they feed.’
WHY IS H3N2 CALLED AUSSIE FLU? HOW AUSTRALIA WAS ROCKED BY THE KILLER STRAIN THAT HAS SPREAD TO UK, US AND EUROPE
Some of the country’s A&E units had ‘standing room only’ after being swamped by more than 100,000 cases of the H3N2 strain
Australia – whose winter occurs during the British summer – had one of its worst outbreaks on record, with two and a half times the normal number of cases.
Some of the country’s A&E units had ‘standing room only’ after being swamped by more than 100,000 cases of the H3N2 strain.
The elderly with their compromised immune systems are particularly susceptible, and a spike in cases among young children has also been shown.
The flu season in the UK and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere tends to mirror what has happened in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere.
The same strains of the virus will circulate north in time for the British flu season, which typically begins in November and lasts until March.
Flu viruses are constantly changing proteins on their surface to avoid detection by the body’s immune system – making it more deadly.
This transformation is called an ‘antigenic shift’ if it’s large enough, and can lead to a pandemic. This was responsible for the swine flu outbreak in 2009.
The Aussie flu is transforming quickly, but not fast enough for experts to describe it as a shift. However, it is slowly building up immunity.