Expert warns 'there are signals' that second pandemic is possible, and it's not Covid

Professor Devi Sridhar revealed what could cause the next pandemic and how to prepare for it at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Expert warns 'there are signals' that second pandemic is possible, and it's not Covid
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Expert warns 'there are signals' that second pandemic is possible, and it's not Covid

Professor Devi Sridhar, a University of Edinburgh professor who advised the Scottish government during the coronavirus crisis, has warned that a second pandemic could be on the horizon. Surprisingly, she is not talking about Covid-19.

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Professor Sridhar, who wrote a book about the coronavirus outbreak, appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Monday 28 August to share her thoughts on the pandemic that has passed and the pandemic that could be yet to come. She discussed the importance of preparing for another health crisis, and referenced ‘signals’ that bird flu could be the next threat we face.

Professor Sridhar’s pandemic book

Professor Sridhar’s book is entitled How a Pandemic Changed the World and How to Stop the Next One. Amid rising Covid cases and concerns, it is not that surprising that she was asked about potential future pandemics at the book festival in Scotland’s capital.

The Independent reported that she talked about signs bird flu could cause thenext pandemic, saying:

In terms of the next one, we can’t say what it is but there are signals.

So what are these signals? Well, the professor went on to explain that the disease is now prevalent in the British wild bird population. The RSPB confirms that this disease has spread all over the UK:

The disease has spread from Scotland, around England's coasts, reaching Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland.

Professor Sridhar stated this is ‘not good’ and revealed a weird parallel with our human experience of Covid-19: flocks of birds are apparently ‘in lockdown because we can’t protect them without putting them inside’.

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The human risk

We have all seen reports about the highly-mutated coronavirus variants that are popping up all over the world. Well, Professor Sridhar explained that the bird flu looks similarly threatening: it has a range of mutations and can jump from birds to humans directly, or via another mammal that makes that jump easier.

The NHS advises that bird flu is spread to humans through close contact with an infected bird, be it dead or alive. If you are visiting an area that has had an outbreak, you should avoid touching infected birds, as well as their droppings or bedding. You can’t catch bird flu by eating fully cooked poultry or eggs, so just make sure you cook everything through.

So far, there is no vaccine against bird flu but it is treatable. If left untreated, it can lead to more serious conditions such as pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

How we should prepare

Professor Sridhar explains that a lot of time was wasted during the Covid pandemic as we discussed which was worse: coronavirus or the restrictions. She suggests this was because the virus ‘hit that sweet spot’ where it was ‘innocuous enough to live with’ but ‘dangerous enough to kill millions of people and hospitalise tens of millions’. She wrote her book because she wanted to capture a historic health crisis; Professor Sridhar believes in tackling these threats head-on.

The health expert said that for the next pandemic, we should waste less time discussing and disagreeing and more time working on how to minimise its impact:

The question is how the next time do we reduce the lives lost and the impositions put on people’s lives, and the cost to the economy and mental health, that should be where we’re at.

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Sources used:

The Independent: Expert calls for future pandemic planning amid ‘signals’ from bird flu

NHS: Bird flu

RSPB: Avian flu (bird flu)

COVID: Here's what you should know about the rising cases in the UK COVID: Here's what you should know about the rising cases in the UK