Daily Mail and General Trust is to offer staff medication as part of a group-wide plan to help them survive a devastating and potentially fatal global bird flu pandemic.
Each member of staff across DMGT and their close friends and family are to be offered doses of Tamiflu, the antiviral drug, as part of its Pandemic Influenza Management Scheme.
In a letter to all Northcliffe staff, to whom the scheme has just been extended, Ken Thompson, group employment affairs director, warned that ‘recent scientific and press coverage have highlighted the threat of a possible influenza pandemic”.
The letter, seen by Press Gazette, said: ‘The present threat of this would likely stem from an avian influenza virus (‘Bird Flu’). A major global pandemic can occur when a virus (such as H5N1), mutates and becomes easily transmitted from human to human.
‘History has taught us that pandemics of this nature do occur, there were three in the 20th Century. Scientists believe that a flu pandemic is inevitable. It could result in large scale illness and fatality. It would also lead to significant and sustained disruption to our businesses.”
It continues: ‘The development of a vaccine to treat a pandemic virus cannot begin until there is an outbreak of the emerging strain. A vaccine would therefore not be available to the general population for six months after the start of the pandemic.
‘Antiviral drugs (such as Tamiflu) provide an alternative to vaccines but will not provide immunity to influenza. They limit its effects and increase the chances of survival.”
Thompson said that while the Government has been stockpiling Tamiflu, it only has enough to cover 25 per cent of the population.
Occupational health providers will administer the drug to staff while drugs for friends and family can be bought
Thompson said he hoped that ‘avian influenza will not become the threat to public health that the experts have warned us about”, he said the company had ‘decided to do everything we can to protect the occupational wellbeing’of its employees.
Thompson was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.