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Influenza

Volume 464: debated on Wednesday 17 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health which industries he has deemed essential in the event of an influenza pandemic; and what support will be provided to them by the Government. (156771)

Whether it would be necessary to consider particular industries as essential in the event of an influenza pandemic is kept under review. As part of that process we will consider the results of the public engagement programme, designed to increase the Government's understanding of public attitudes to pandemic preparedness, that is planned for autumn 2007.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what total expenditure was on research into pharmaceutical interventions for use in the event of an influenza pandemic from (a) his Department's research and development budget, (b) the Medical Research Council and (c) other sources of public funding in each year since 1997-98. (156773)

Many pharmaceutical interventions that would be used in an influenza pandemic (such as antiviral drugs and antibiotics) are also used for other purposes, and research conducted for such purposes would inform our response in an influenza pandemic. Research on seasonal influenza vaccines is also relevant to the development and use of vaccines for use in pandemic influenza.

Over the last 10 years, the main part of the Department's total expenditure on health research has been devolved to and managed by national health service organisations. Details of individual NHS supported research projects including a number concerned with influenza are available on the national research register at:

www.nrr.nhs.uk.

The Department has also provided support from its research and development budget to a number of projects relevant to pharmaceutical interventions in an influenza pandemic.

Over the next five years, the Department of Health has committed, through the National Institute for Health Research, £2.59 million to projects related to vaccines and immunity in the context of influenza. In December 2005, the Medical Research Council announced a £13.5 million initiative for research relevant to pandemic influenza. A number of other publicly funded bodies also support research relevant to pandemic influenza.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what discussions he has had with the Home Department on the 25 per cent. clinical attack rate assumed for planning purposes in the Home Office's consultation document Planning for a possible influenza pandemic—a framework to manage deaths—consultation, published on 30 August 2007; what his latest estimate is of the most likely clinical attack rate in the event of an influenza pandemic; and if he will make a statement. (156775)

The Department meets regularly with Home Office officials to discuss planning for pandemic influenza. The United Kingdom's plans are based on a range of attack rates from 25 per cent. up to a reasonable worst case of 50 per cent. This range is reflected in the draft Home Office guidance ‘Planning for a possible influenza pandemic—A framework for planners preparing to manage deaths’.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress is being made in developing a clinically-based algorithm for use by call handlers in the event of an influenza pandemic. (156776)

Development of the clinically-based algorithm for use by call handlers is now being led by NHS Direct; the algorithm is due to be tested in the last quarter of 2007.