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Spanish flu centenary sparks complacency warning

Friday November 9th, 2018

A combination of antimicrobial resistance, complacency, austerity, climate change, urbanisation and migration are increasing the risk of infectious diseases and pandemics, a London conference heard last night.

A debate hosted by the International Longevity Centre (ILC) at the Science Museum London, as part of a global programme that explores what the lessons of the Spanish flu 100 years ago can teach us about the future and how humanity can recognise and respond quicker to events that will shape the experiences of generation ahead of us.

ILC cautioned that alarmist or inaccurate reporting could also help spread fear or misinformation and undermine the prevention of future infectious diseases.

David Sinclair, ILC director, said: “The Spanish flu shaped the profile of a generation, their demographics but also their health profile. 100 years on, it is vital that we do not become complacent about infectious diseases.

“We must learn the lessons from this deadly disease to ensure that history does not repeat itself. Reporting on science should be clear, transparent and evidence based. There is no space for fake news if we are to be best prepared.

“Policymakers must not rest on their laurels. Antimicrobial resistance is a real threat and vaccination across the life course should be our first line of defence.”

Steven Baxter, head of longevity innovation & research at Hymans Robertson LLP, told the 150 senior academics, policy-makers and health care professionals that a modern day antibiotic resistant pandemic would not just lead to widespread morbidity, loss of economic productivity, massive strain on health systems and potentially material loss of life are obvious.

There are likely to be longer-term effects, he warned.

“The Spanish Flu of 1918-1919 resulted in a generation resilient to the H1N1 flu strain, but heightened susceptibility to other flu strains,” he said.

“It also left a legacy respiratory and cardiovascular weaknesses within younger suffers believed to have manifested many decades later. Just as viruses adapt – we must adapt to today’s challenges if we want to maintain our current levels of health and longevity.”

Tags: Flu & Viruses | UK News | World Health

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