Focus on Swine Influenza

On April 29 2009, the World Health Organization raised its alert over the spread of swine influenza (swine flu) to a phase 5- one short of the highest. A phase 5 alert is a 'strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short'. Person-to-person spread of the virus has taken place in at least two countries.

On 30 April, the Sun headline was 'Three new cases in UK. Confirmed diagnosis of the Killer virus in the north east and London'. (The Sun, accessed 30.04.09)

So what's the story; how is the flu spreading, how worried should we be and what should we be doing?

The UK's Chief Medical Officer was quoted as saying "What we will see is many, many more cases, but on the whole most people make a good recovery from flu." (BBC, accessed 01.05.09)

The risks are difficult to estimate. The UK sees thousands of deaths from seasonal flu every year. In 1999-2000 just under 22,000 were killed by the disease. The numbers have since come down. In 2004-2005, there were an estimated 1,268 deaths due to flu. This reduction is largely down to the success of the flu vaccination programme and most deaths occur in those already vulnerable.

The concern in the UK is understandable. And there will certainly be deaths worldwide caused by this outbreak. However, while dealing with the issues raised by the spread of this virus, it might also be a good time to explore other issues and look globally to remind our students of other disease stories around the world.

Here are some resources that may help you.

News Sources

Many news websites now have dedicated areas relating to swine flu with articles, information, Q&As and videos. The links below take you straight there.

BBC - includes an interactive world map
Guardian Online
The Telegraph

Other articles

Mexicans told 'stay home' as swine flu spreads - Times Online
Three more UK cases of swine flu - The Independent
England's first victim... speaks of his ordeal
- Daily Mail
Three more UK cases - The Sun
ANALYSTS' VIEW: How serious is swine flu? Should we worry? - Reuters

Sites with maps, statistics and advice

Information and Advice

World Health Organization - includes regular updates on the global situation
Health Protection Agency - with weekly updates on the UK situation
Directgov - Advice and information on treatment and protection
The Day After Tomorrow - an alternative take. 'The day after tomorrow website has been established to help people prepare for disaster situations and aid their community in the event of any emergencies.'


FluTracker -  tracking the progress of H1N1 swine flu and compiled by Dr. Henry Niman, a biomedical researcher in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Swine Flu Map - another site with a map of suspected and confirmed cases

Teaching and Learning Reources

Resources from the Geographical Association

We have a Geography of Disease project area which contains KS3 resources that were developed by three participating schools in a Wellcome Trust funded project.

Go to Geography of Disease project area
Useful Links

See also this KS4 lesson idea on mapping disease using ICT:

Mapping disease: Watch it spread

External Resources

The Geography of Disease - Excellent resources from Wycombe High School
The Geography of Disease
- AS/A2 tasks from Geography all the Way
- educational materials and games, including swine flu fact sheets for both primary and secondary.


Graeme Eyre is a geography teacher currently in China and this posting on his Blog from July will give you an insight into how the Swine Flu risk is being dealt with in this Chinese school.


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