Healthcare Tips

Swine Flu Is Latest Biosecurity Challenge

July 26, 2017

Experts on the prevention, handling and treatment of influenza-type viruses and pathogenic material are meeting in London over the next two days and the threat of a global flu outbreak will feature strongly in the discussions.

Representatives from the Health and Safety Executive, Institute for Animal Health, Health Protection Agency and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory are speaking at a two-day meeting organised by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE).

Preparation for Biocontainment, biosafety and biosecurity 2009 began last year and IChemE's advance publicity referred to the 'near certainty of an influenza-type pandemic in the future'.

"The timing is coincidental, but it's an opportune moment for experts to come together and discuss the likelihood and impact of a flu pandemic and what needs to be done combat the threat," says IChemE Director of Policy, Andrew Furlong.

Speakers will discuss the release of specific pathogens, including H1N1 - a new variant of which is responsible for the swine flu outbreak; rapid response biomanufacturing of vaccines and antibodies; and patient decontamination and the temporary provision of patient isolation systems.

Interest in biocontainment and biosecurity has grown steadily in the chemical engineering community. In 2007, IChemE Fellow, Keith Plumb featured across the UK media discussing the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak at Pirbright, Surrey and the biocontainment breach that led to the release. Now Plumb is calling for a measured response in the face of intense media speculation around the threat of 'Mexican Flu'.

"Let's keep things in perspective," says Plumb.

"This is not 1918; and with over 30 million doses of antiviral treatments, effective against H1N1 available in the UK right now we are well placed to combat any outbreak. We should also bear in mind that there are two flu-vaccine manufacturers in the UK (Novartis and Medimmune) and whilst there may be capacity issues, both companies are technically capable of producing appropriate vaccines.

Plumb continues, "There is no evidence of pandemic in Europe at this point in time but should the threat increase, the UK has a wealth of scientific and engineering expertise which can be deployed to ramp up the countermeasures necessary to protect the population at large.

"Ultimately, the problem won't be solved by government or some sort of national security clampdown - it's the medical profession supported by engineers and scientists who will see us through," adds Plumb.

Institution of Chemical Engineers Further information on Swine Flu See a Map Of H1N1 Outbreaks See our Mexico Swine Flu Blog