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PORTER

So one would hope that it might not offer you full protection but it would ameliorate some of the complications of this disease?


MCCLOSKEY

That's what we hope but as I say we don't really know, we haven't got confirmation of that yet.


PORTER

And we talk about waves of pandemics but how quickly would we expect - I mean let's assume worst case scenario, no evidence that's going to happen yet, but let's assume that that's the case - I mean how quickly would this sweep across the world?


MCCLOSKEY

It's very hard to know in the sense that we have the historical experience of previous pandemics in the 1918 and the ones later in the 20th Century but the world is different now, previously we didn't have oseltamivir antiviral treatments, we don't know how that will affect it, but on the other side we have much more international travel, much more rapid travel than then, so it's very hard to balance those two factors. But we're sort of thinking that we might have, in a worse case scenario, weeks or preferably some months between now and developing something more serious in between the phases.


PORTER

Now the prevailing image from anyone watching the television all the scenes from Mexico is that people in face masks, is there any evidence that they actually make any difference?


MCCLOSKEY

I can understand why people do that but actually the evidence for doing it isn't very good at all and it doesn't seem - for a well person it doesn't really seem to offer much protection at all. Essentially they're only of use when they're dry and they get wet very quickly, if you're symptomatic of sneezing obviously very quickly but even just breathing through them. And one of our concerns is that if people have symptoms like sneezing and they use a mask the problems is then the mask itself gets contaminated, as you take it off you contaminate your hands and fingers and when you through it away you contaminate the environment around you. So we have to weigh up the relatively small evidence of benefit from a mask versus the very real harm it might do.


PORTER

Although they do seem to make people feel more confident. What is the latest advice on travel in terms of people travelling to areas where cases have been confirmed?


MCCLOSKEY

At the moment the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who are sort of the major advisors around this for the UK government are suggesting people don't travel to Mexico except on very essential business and perhaps think about deferring travel. The World Health Organisation however is very clear that closing borders is not a good idea, it will not help anybody, it doesn't stop a pandemic or any flu or any other virus spreading. So we wouldn't recommend closing borders but currently the FCO are advising people that perhaps don't travel to Mexico if you have a choice.



Directory: rmhttp -> radio4 -> transcripts
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transcripts -> This transcript is issued on the understanding that it is taken from a live programme as it was broadcast. The nature of live broadcasting means that neither the bbc nor the participants in the programme can guarantee the accuracy of the information
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