'Virtual flu'

'Virtual flu'

From BBC

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We seem to be suffering from a global amnesia. Ask any passerby – as we did – “What was the most catastrophic cause of death in the last 100 years?” and you receive the usual suspects: WWII, perhaps WWI. There are also some less obvious replies: Chernobyl, the Boxing Day Tsunami, Hiroshima. Very, very rarely will anyone say Spanish Flu, and yet that particular pandemic killed up to 100 million people.

There have been three others since then. Even more astonishing is that the UK Government considers another flu pandemic so dangerous to our society that it tops the list of the newly updated National Risk Register for Civil Emergencies.

So it’s particularly timely that the BBC has just launched the BBC Pandemic App on the iOS App Store and Google Play.

This free app is part of the biggest experiment of its kind, a citizen science experiment that aims to spread a virtual pandemic – an outbreak of a simulated infectious disease around the entire country.

That may sound like an odd thing to want to do but, if successful, the BBC Pandemic could help save lives when – not if – the next lethal pandemic spreads across the world.

With international air travel at over four billion flights last year alone, stopping a flu pandemic taking hold is pretty much impossible nowadays, but the BBC Pandemic App will help a team of mathematical epidemiologists from the University of Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine predict how a virus could spread across the UK and, crucially, test what might be done to slow it down.

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The problem with pandemic flu viruses is that they emerge unannounced, unlike the

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