Table 2

Examples of risk assessments made by academics and official agencies, by category assigned to academic risk assessment

Official risk assessmentAcademic risk assessment
Higher than official agencies“..between 400 000 and 800 000 people [become] ill in an average flu season, but [at the peak of a pandemic] you would probably be into several million cases” [Chief Medical Officer]“The virus [is] likely to be two to three times more deadly than seasonal flu...the pandemic could mean that 25–35 per cent of the population would fall ill within three or four months, placing severe strain on the NHS”.
Concurring with official agenciesMinister of Health: “There is no cause for anyone to feel there is going to be any danger to them at this stage... Pandemics come along every 20 years and the present outbreak [is] not inevitably going to move to level six”, however [the Minister of Health] indicated that he thought it likely that the alert level might rise to pandemic.”“We haven't yet identified any features that give us cause for concern, or that indicate high virulence [...]. It is important that people keep a sense of perspective, because what we observe is what may lead to a pandemic. We don't know that it will lead to a pandemic, although many of us think that this is highly likely”.
Lower than official agencies“Even though the fatality rate is relatively low we will see a lot of people dying because of the large number of people being infected. As more and more cases are reported in the US, we are starting to see some hospitalisations and more severe cases. We may see the same pattern in the UK”. [World Health Organization]“This might not be any more virulent than normal seasonal flu infections. We feel reassured that if this develops into a pandemic it might not be a particularly severe one”.