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Swine flu will [enter scare words here]...

...but BT says it won't kill the internet

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Several people in the UK have quite possibly got swine flu, but this doesn't necessarily mean the end of civilisation.

Some of you might worry that the epidemic will swiftly carry away your comms services. The 'reasoning' goes something like this: the flu reaches epidemic proportions, offices close as our transport infrastructure shudders to a halt, everyone not at death's door logs in from home and BT's network, and the internet, collapses under the strain.

What happens next will be clear to anyone who's seen 28 Days Later...

But be not afraid, the reality will likely be duller. The internet is good at not falling over, although it might well slow slightly as all those off sick try to watch iPlayer.

BT said: "BT's network is in a strong position to cope with the expected demands in home working."

The busiest time for internet usage in the UK is early on Sunday evening, when average speeds can fall as much as 25 per cent.

A more realistic worry is how well your firm's own infrastructure would cope with most of the staff working from home. And how about if half the IT department were off sick too? Chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said at least 12 per cent of staff could be off sick at any one time.

That's assuming they can get to work. Transport for London has tried to reassure people that it was possible for tube trains and buses to continue to function even if some staff did get the sniffles.

But some of its unions were not so enthusiastic, and Bob Crowe of the RMT union warned that his members were more likely than most to catch the disease because they work in close contact with large numbers of people.

Transport for London pointed out that any epidemic which hits their staff would likely also reduce the number of passengers using its network.

Of course flu is nothing to be, umm, sneezed at. It kills about 1,500 people in the UK every winter - but of course that is dull old people flu, not this headline-friendly new flu.

Government advice is available for both businesses and individuals here, and there's a symptom checker here.

A vaccine is being developed and should be ready by September. It will be given to frontline medical staff and then other groups depending on need - rather like the existing flu jab which goes to the young, the old and the otherwise vulnerable. ®

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