New Government predictions of the spread of swine flu in the UK suggest that 100,000 people per day could be becoming infected by the end of August. This projection is based on an estimate that the number of infections will double every week.
The basis for this estimate seems to be that the number of infections is currently doubling every week, so is likely to continue to do so. If so, will it continue after the end of August? Extrapolating this to the end of the year, for example, the figures show that by then, 6.5 billion people in Britain will be catching the flu every day. Which means over a quadrillion people in Britain will then be infected.
We asked the Heath Minister, Andy Burnham, about the figures. He told us that if there were not enough people to support the Government's prediction, more people would be brought into the country to help. "It is essential that we realise that this new figure of a quadrillion Britons having swine flu by the end of the year is only a projection," he said. "The actual figure could go either way."
With only 60 million doses of vaccine being purchased, did this mean that the government was leaving more than 999 trillion people at risk?
"We don't believe so," Mr Burnham told us, "it just means we have to be very selective about who gets the vaccine. And people should always use a hankie."
Projecting the current mortality rates to the end of the year also raises a worrying issue. Based on current world-wide swine flu mortality figures, if a quadrillion people in Britain have swine flu by Christmas, the number of people who will have died by then will exceed the total UK population. A frightening prospect indeed.
Luckily, Andy Burnham had the answer. "It is precisely because of this that we are moving from a 'diagnosis and prevention' phase to one of 'mass landfill'. From now on scientists who have been busy identifying the flu virus in their laboratories will instead be trained in the use of a bell and a handcart."