"There are all sorts of imponderables, which mean these figures are meaningless... I'm surprised at the Department of Health putting out these figures in the way they have. I can understand them saying to emergency planners you have to be prepared but why are they going public in what seems like panic mode?"
Such panic mode makes it all the more likely that the new National Pandemic Flu Service, which should start up next week, will be drowning in calls. Staffed by volunteers, its purpose is to diagnose and authorise Tamiflu. Now, if our experience of talking to our actual, qualified, browbeaten and exhausted GP is anything to go by (we rang up purely for epidemiological reasons, honest; good public health statistics being vital in pandemics), pretty much anyone with "flu-like symptoms" is being diagnosed with swine flu and offered Tamiflu, even when said symptoms are mild, have been going on too long for Tamiflu to be effective (that's within two days of symptoms starting, antiviral fans) and only reduce illness duration by about a day. So we imagine that when volunteers start being screamed at by anyone who can use a telephone and read a list of symptoms off a website, Tamiflu will become as common as sweeties. Which, as a method of drug distribution, strikes us as only marginally more efficient than throwing boxes out of a helicopter.