In Brief

Major flu outbreak ‘could kill 300 million’

Global Health Council chief Dr Jonathan Quick says factory farms could be the petri dish for a deadly global pandemic

In a letter to the Daily Mail, the chair of the Global Health Council said he fears a major influenza outbreak could kill 300 million people in the next two years.

Dr Jonathan Quick said he is anticipating a “global virus pandemic” that could kill 33 million people in its first 200 days.

The outbreak - which he predicts will be “at least as deadly as anything we have ever known before” - is most likely to be a mutation of a strain of avian or swine flu.

“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,” he said.

The most recent pandemic happened around 2009-2010 when swine flu emerged in Mexico, and has been estimated as claiming anything between 150,000 to 575,000 lives worldwide. 

Quick argues that we are more likely to face this kind of flu because of the factory farm industry and humanity’s “addiction to cheap chicken and pork”. He points out that the genes behind the swine flu outbreak were traced back to a pig farm in North Carolina. 

 “The conditions are right, it could happen tomorrow,” he added.

A mass global flu outbreak could disrupt the world economy as food and medicine supply chains fall apart, Quick argues. “Starvation and looting could lay waste to parts of the world,” he said.

Professor Robert Dingwall, another flu expert, told The Sun that flu pandemics happen once in a generation, when there is a “dramatic shift” in the flu virus - which typically happens every 20 to 40 years.

The deadliest flu outbreak ever was the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 that took the lives of nearly 100 million people and infected a third of the world’s population.

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