DoH: bird flu campaign would scare the public

The Department of Health has defended its decision not to launch a public information campaign on the possible spread of bird flu to people in the UK.

Responding to calls from The Observer health editor Jo Revill, the DoH claimed that such a campaign would constitute 'scaremongering' and would not reflect the current low level of risk.

The DoH has posted information on pandemic flu and avian influenza on its website. It has also sent information packs to doctors' surgeries to help staff respond to patients' concerns.

'Should the World Health Organisation raise the level of alert we would immediately take steps to update the public,' said a DoH spokeswoman. 

She added that if bird flu arrived in the UK – or if it mutated into a human form – the Government would launch a hygiene campaign.
However, Revill said such a campaign was needed now: 'We know there is a campaign planned and I would like to see it happen straight away to make sure there was enough time for the messages to get through.'

If the H5N1 strain does mutate into human form, it is estimated that one quarter of the UK's working population would be affected.
The DoH said that public information needed to be updated in accordance with the results of international surveillance.

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