Citizen science experiment predicts massive toll of flu pandemic on the UK


How fast could a new flu epidemic spread? The results of the UK’s largest citizen science project of its kind ever attempted, carried out by thousands of volunteers, predict that 43 million people in the UK could be infected in an influenza pandemic, and with up to 886,000 of those infected expected to be fatalities.

We don’t know of any studies that join up the movement and survey data so comprehensively.
- Julia Gog

The numbers are frightening, but even more daunting is the very real danger of a major flu pandemic emerging at any moment. Experts around the world agree that it’s a question of when not if the next deadly pandemic will strike, making it number one on the government civilian risk register in the UK.

When it happens the pandemic will almost certainly reach the UK and the government will be faced with a series of life-saving decisions. Should we close schools or public transport? Who should be given priority when the first doses of vaccine become available? How will we cope if there is a high mortality rate? Having the right answers to these and many other crucial pandemic response questions depends on mathematical models.

The model behind the results, designed by researchers at the University of Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is based on data from nearly 30,000 volunteers and represents the largest and most comprehensive dataset of its kind. The results were due to be broadcast on Contagion! The BBC Four Pandemic,  last night (22 March) on BBC Four, presented by Dr Hannah Fry and Dr Javid Abdelmoneim.

The results are also published in the journal Epidemics.

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Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge



The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

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