Several months ago, a story was bought up in the British media several times (just google "avian flu outbreak warning 1997") about a warning from UK scientists in 1997 that a severe avian flu pandemic was on the way, possibly from the far east. Obviously, and thankfully, this never happened - but what if it did?

It got me thinking, and I've decided to take this highly interesting but terrifying idea, and make it into a TL. We'll see the first initial reactions to the outbreak, the spread to Europe and the Americas; the reactions from governments and world leaders (we'll be focusing on Britain and the US) and how it parallels the response to COVID-19; and ultimately, we'll see a very different political system emerge, which includes, amongst various other things, no President Bush. This timeline will run from 1997 to 2022 - once it reaches the 2010's it may have to be moved to another thread, but it'll be a while till we get there.

So, without further ado, welcome to...


PANDEMIC '97 - A TL BY RILLIUM
 
It all begin with a warning.

In March 1997, the central British government, as well as the regional governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, received a warning from a group of UK health chiefs over a potential avian flu pandemic originating in the far-east. Though the Conservative administration of John Major, and Secretary of State for Health Stephen Dorrell, read over the warning, and the subsequent plan in the event that the pandemic actually happened, no further action was taken - no training exercises, no extra warnings or addresses to government officials. Instead, they virtually ignored the report. A pandemic looked extremely unlikely, plus the government would deal with it spectacularly! Any virus would go running at the sight of our NHS and vaccinations programme! Or - would it?

Several months later, Tony Blair's New Labour won a landslide electoral victory, ending close to two decades of Tory rule and replacing a widely-disliked and ridiculed Prime Minister with a younger and wildly popular one. John Major packed his bags, Stephen Dorrell packed his bags, Michael Heseltine packed his bags as did Ken Clarke - and in came Tony Blair, Frank Dobson, John Prescott and Gordon Brown. Though many analysts today argue that the pandemic would have been much better handled if the Blair administration had won power several months earlier, Blair or Dobson never received the report, and it was almost entirely swept under the rug.

Over in the US, Bill Clinton was four months into his second term, and had begun working on his economic, domestic and international agenda. Making history by appointing the first female Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, to his Cabinet, Clinton wholeheartedly believed that his second term was go down as a clear, clean success, economic prosperity and social progress. Clinton's term would be nowhere near clear or clean - instead it would be remembered as one big mess.


1644600754693.jpeg

Frank Dobson, the British Health Secretary.

As April ended and May began, Japan began experiencing a dramatic rise in the cases of bird flu (specifically the H1N5 variant) in local avian population. Though bird flu wasn't a huge problem in the civilised world, poor animal caretaking methods led to an outbreak of the disease in chickens in northeast Japan, which quickly spread to multiple farms. Concerns began to grow amongst the international health community, but the Japanese government, and Prime Minister Hashimoto himself, continued to push on with "all is well". It's at this point where Mr Blair and President Clinton are generally considered to have began preparations for a pandemic, with the British government issuing a frantic scan for the report delivered to Dorrell back in March. Fauci made a now famous quip following a Clinton speech on the matter - "It's fine for now, but as soon as that virus reaches us then we've got a problem."

1644600802418.jpeg

Hashimoto was determined for the virus outbreak to remain within the country, and for it to be dealt with quickly.

On April 17th, 1997, the first case of H1N5 was detected in a Japanese woman living in central Tokyo. Patient Zero, and many of her neighbours, were instantly quarantined. Hashimoto continued to update the nation, reassuring both nationals, and those abroad, that everything would be fine. And, indeed, everything seemed fine in the days following.

But.

On April 21st, 1997, a British citizen was found to be carrying the virus.

They were taken to hospital.

But died shortly afterwards.

Frank Dobson was caught on mic saying the following word, shortly after he announced the patient's death.

"Shit's gonna get real bad."

And, alas.

It did.
 
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What is the fatality rate for this Avian Flu? COVID was 2-3% among reported cases (lower when including unreported cases that were usually mild), so if this is more around 10%, this could get real, real bad.
 
"Mortality rate, we need to know the mortality rate!"

"I don't know the FUCKING MORTALITY RATE! I know as much as everyone else at the moment, and that's practically nothing."

"Frank, the 7th death has just been confirmed. It's spreading. The CDC over in the US is saying it could be anywhere from 3-11% death rate. That's real bad."

"....What's Tony doing at the moment?"

"I presume he's preparing his ass for PMQ's."

"Well, once it's over, I'll call him for an emergency meeting. But Phil, I have no bloody clue what I'm doing at the moment, or how we're gonna stop it or anything like that..."

"It'll be fine."


By May 7th, Britain now had seven confirmed H1N5 deaths. Japan had twenty-one, China had two, Australia had one, Taiwan had one, the US had one and Finland had one. It was clear that measures would have to be taken, potentially draconian restrictions on life's freedoms. In Japan, Hashimoto was incredibly close to being forced out of office, having rejected bringing in "shutdown" even as Japan began to be ravaged with cases and an uptick in deaths. President Clinton had urged for international calm, Hiroshi Nakajima, the Director of the World Health Organisation, had pledged to meet with "the leaders of the free world", Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, had urged caution, and Tony Blair had flown over to Tokyo to meet with the Japanese Minister for Health. Public panic was slowly starting to grow, but what could be done?

1644919415532.jpeg

Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, was at the forefront of the response to the influenza.

On May 15th, Britain recorded it's thirtieth death from H1N5. It all seemed like a horrible nightmare - this can't be happening? Could it?

On that same day, Blair held a meeting with not just the Cabinet, but senior civil service officials, including a number of health experts. The question was - what could be done? Gordon Brown was in favour of a so-called "shutdown", which would mean an end to social gatherings and daily life whilst the virus continued to spread. Brown had the backing of a number of senior cabinet ministers, including Home Secretary Jack Straw and Trade Secretary Margaret Beckett. On the other hand were those in favour of a "softer" response - led by John Prescott, this faction included Alan Milburn, John Reid and Donald Dewar. They were incredibly cautious of bringing in any restrictions on life, both for their political legacy and for a general concern about how the public would be affected by the measures. During the 90-minute meeting, four more bird flu deaths were confirmed, the quickest succession of deaths that Britain had seen so far. Blair, who had taken the side of Brown and Straw, was adamant that restrictions of some sort would need to be put in place to stop a potentially horrific pandemic that could tear through much of the world.

Meanwhile, in the US, the first death and second case of H1N5 was recorded, with President Clinton holding a press conference on which he called for people to follow basic health guidelines advised by the CDC. Chelsea Clinton would write in her 2011 memoir that "Dad was terrified. You wouldn't know it, but on the inside he was honestly frightened of what could happen if it... if it got real bad." Public approval began to turn against Clinton, with senior Republicans, most notably Speaker Newt Gingrich calling Clinton a "coward".

1644919533962.jpeg

Senior Republicans, including Newt Gingrich (pictured here with US Senator and 1996 presidential nominee Bob Dole) were attempting to find any means necessary to oust Clinton.

Clinton was also largely influential in what would become one of the biggest events of the early pandemic - the resignation of Ryutaro Hashimoto. Refusing to implement restrictions even as Japan reached an awful fifty deaths, discussions began to grow over how to force him out. Ichiro Ozawa, Leader of the New Frontier Party, submitted a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, which, after expectations that it would fail, shockingly passed. Forced to resign effective-immediately the next day, Hashimoto would be succeeded by Yukihiko Ikeda, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who would become acting Prime Minister. Ikeda was a staunch proponent of shutdown measures, and several days after his ascent to the premiership, announced a strict "national shutdown".

Over the next few days (May 15th-May 19th), the flu continued to rise in deaths and cases everywhere, with Sweden, Norway, Russia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Greenland, Denmark, Mexico and Venezuela all seeing its first few cases. On May 9th, Blair addressed the nation, announcing that they would be following Japan in introducing a National Shutdown. The shutdown would see Britain closing shops, cafes, restaurants, leisure and entertainment for two weeks, though this could be extended by the government if "the outbreak has not significantly calmed down by the end of this two-week period." Schools would remain open, with the death rate from children unknown, but presumed to be relatively low. Blair also announced the formation of an Influenza Response Committee (IRC), which would consist of Blair, Brown, Dobson, Chief Medical Officer Ken Calman, Chief Scientific Advisor Robert May, Leader of the Opposition William Hague and Shadow Health Secretary John Maples. The following day, Blair also reshuffled his Cabinet, the most prominent move of which was the elevation of Ken Calman to the House of Lords as Lord Calman, and his subsequent appointment as Secretary of State for the Influenza Crisis and Pandemic Response.

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom/Minister for the Civil Service/First Lord of the Treasury/Chairman of the Influenza Response Committee - Tony Blair MP

Chancellor of the Exchequer/First Lord of the Treasury/Secretary of State for Scotland - Gordon Brown MP

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs - Frank Dobson MP

Secretary of State for the Home Department - Robin Cook MP


Secretary of State for the Influenza Crisis and Pandemic Response/Chief Medical Officer of the United Kingdom - Lord Calman



Secretary of State for Defence - Margaret Beckett MP

/First Secretary of State/Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster/Minister for the Cabinet Office - Jack Straw MP

Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions - Mo Mowlam MP


Secretary of State for Public Health and Welfare/Chief Medical Advisor to the Prime Minister - Lord May

Secretary of State for Education - Peter Mandelson MP

Secretary of State for Employment - Alistair Darling MP

Secretary of State for Social Security - Helen Liddell MP

Secretary of State for Families and Communities - David Blunkett MP

Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food - Harriet Harman

Secretary of State for Trade and Industry - Chris Smith MP

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport - Clare Short MP

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland - Jack Cunningham MP



Minister for Transport - John Reid MP


Leader of the House of Commons/Lord President of the Council - Ron Davies MP

Leader of the House of Lords/Lord Privy Seal/Secretary of State for Wales - Neil Kinnock MP

Lord High Chancellor of the United Kingdom - Lord Irvine

Chief Secretary to the Treasury - Donald Dewar MP

Chief Whip of the House of Commons - Steve Byers MP

Attorney General of the United Kingdom - Ann Taylor MP

Chairman of the Labour Party/Minister without Portfolio - John Prescott


1644919655258.jpeg

Dobson had received a significant promotion, from Health Secretary to Foreign Secretary.

With the UK and Japan both now under shutdowns, China and the US would be the next two countries to face a serious uptick in cases. Brushing off "panicked" advice from advisors and medical officers, Clinton continued to push forward with his "all is well" strategy -which did not go as Clinton had hoped. The pandemic began taking a brutal toll on the US, something out of which only the minds of Stephen King and Mary Shelley could imagine.



On May 26th, 1997, as the UK reached halfway through the shutdown, the World Health Organisation published a highly startling statistic. The mortality rate had now been confirmed by a number of senior scientists and health officials, and it was not good news. "1-3, 1-3, 1-3" Clinton echoed in his mind, remembering the "best case scenario" figures that Tony had given him."

"We can now state that the mortality rate of H1N5 is 37-43%."


"Shit."
 

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Watched!
It is interesting that Yukihiko Ikeda will be the prime minister.
He was one of the senior members of the LDP, but was never considered a candidate for PM in OTL.
 
Seeking a clarification: Blair and Labour only entered office on 2 May, the election was held on 1 May 1997.

According to your timeline @Rillium, 21 April is the first death in the UK. Major should still be PM on this date on the final days of the election campaign and Labour and Blair should not be in office yet.
 
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Seeking a clarification: Blair and Labour only entered office on 2 May, the election was held on 1 May 1997.

According to your timeline @Rillium, 21 April is the first death in the UK. Major should still be PM on this date on the final days of the election campaign and Labour and Blair should not be in office yet.
Unintentional mistake, thx for pointing it out!
 
Next update will come in the next couple days, currently just planning out where this will go in terms of the political consequences
 
"Mortality rate, we need to know the mortality rate!"

"I don't know the FUCKING MORTALITY RATE! I know as much as everyone else at the moment, and that's practically nothing."

"Frank, the 7th death has just been confirmed. It's spreading. The CDC over in the US is saying it could be anywhere from 3-11% death rate. That's real bad."

"....What's Tony doing at the moment?"

"I presume he's preparing his ass for PMQ's."

"Well, once it's over, I'll call him for an emergency meeting. But Phil, I have no bloody clue what I'm doing at the moment, or how we're gonna stop it or anything like that..."

"It'll be fine."


By May 7th, Britain now had seven confirmed H1N5 deaths. Japan had twenty-one, China had two, Australia had one, Taiwan had one, the US had one and Finland had one. It was clear that measures would have to be taken, potentially draconian restrictions on life's freedoms. In Japan, Hashimoto was incredibly close to being forced out of office, having rejected bringing in "shutdown" even as Japan began to be ravaged with cases and an uptick in deaths. President Clinton had urged for international calm, Hiroshi Nakajima, the Director of the World Health Organisation, had pledged to meet with "the leaders of the free world", Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, had urged caution, and Tony Blair had flown over to Tokyo to meet with the Japanese Minister for Health. Public panic was slowly starting to grow, but what could be done?

View attachment 719287
Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, was at the forefront of the response to the influenza.

On May 15th, Britain recorded it's thirtieth death from H1N5. It all seemed like a horrible nightmare - this can't be happening? Could it?

On that same day, Blair held a meeting with not just the Cabinet, but senior civil service officials, including a number of health experts. The question was - what could be done? Gordon Brown was in favour of a so-called "shutdown", which would mean an end to social gatherings and daily life whilst the virus continued to spread. Brown had the backing of a number of senior cabinet ministers, including Home Secretary Jack Straw and Trade Secretary Margaret Beckett. On the other hand were those in favour of a "softer" response - led by John Prescott, this faction included Alan Milburn, John Reid and Donald Dewar. They were incredibly cautious of bringing in any restrictions on life, both for their political legacy and for a general concern about how the public would be affected by the measures. During the 90-minute meeting, four more bird flu deaths were confirmed, the quickest succession of deaths that Britain had seen so far. Blair, who had taken the side of Brown and Straw, was adamant that restrictions of some sort would need to be put in place to stop a potentially horrific pandemic that could tear through much of the world.

Meanwhile, in the US, the first death and second case of H1N5 was recorded, with President Clinton holding a press conference on which he called for people to follow basic health guidelines advised by the CDC. Chelsea Clinton would write in her 2011 memoir that "Dad was terrified. You wouldn't know it, but on the inside he was honestly frightened of what could happen if it... if it got real bad." Public approval began to turn against Clinton, with senior Republicans, most notably Speaker Newt Gingrich calling Clinton a "coward".

View attachment 719289
Senior Republicans, including Newt Gingrich (pictured here with US Senator and 1996 presidential nominee Bob Dole) were attempting to find any means necessary to oust Clinton.

Clinton was also largely influential in what would become one of the biggest events of the early pandemic - the resignation of Ryutaro Hashimoto. Refusing to implement restrictions even as Japan reached an awful fifty deaths, discussions began to grow over how to force him out. Ichiro Ozawa, Leader of the New Frontier Party, submitted a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, which, after expectations that it would fail, shockingly passed. Forced to resign effective-immediately the next day, Hashimoto would be succeeded by Yukihiko Ikeda, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who would become acting Prime Minister. Ikeda was a staunch proponent of shutdown measures, and several days after his ascent to the premiership, announced a strict "national shutdown".

Over the next few days (May 15th-May 19th), the flu continued to rise in deaths and cases everywhere, with Sweden, Norway, Russia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Greenland, Denmark, Mexico and Venezuela all seeing its first few cases. On May 9th, Blair addressed the nation, announcing that they would be following Japan in introducing a National Shutdown. The shutdown would see Britain closing shops, cafes, restaurants, leisure and entertainment for two weeks, though this could be extended by the government if "the outbreak has not significantly calmed down by the end of this two-week period." Schools would remain open, with the death rate from children unknown, but presumed to be relatively low. Blair also announced the formation of an Influenza Response Committee (IRC), which would consist of Blair, Brown, Dobson, Chief Medical Officer Ken Calman, Chief Scientific Advisor Robert May, Leader of the Opposition William Hague and Shadow Health Secretary John Maples. The following day, Blair also reshuffled his Cabinet, the most prominent move of which was the elevation of Ken Calman to the House of Lords as Lord Calman, and his subsequent appointment as Secretary of State for the Influenza Crisis and Pandemic Response.

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom/Minister for the Civil Service/First Lord of the Treasury/Chairman of the Influenza Response Committee - Tony Blair MP

Chancellor of the Exchequer/First Lord of the Treasury/Secretary of State for Scotland - Gordon Brown MP

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs - Frank Dobson MP

Secretary of State for the Home Department - Robin Cook MP


Secretary of State for the Influenza Crisis and Pandemic Response/Chief Medical Officer of the United Kingdom - Lord Calman



Secretary of State for Defence - Margaret Beckett MP

/First Secretary of State/Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster/Minister for the Cabinet Office - Jack Straw MP

Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions - Mo Mowlam MP


Secretary of State for Public Health and Welfare/Chief Medical Advisor to the Prime Minister - Lord May

Secretary of State for Education - Peter Mandelson MP

Secretary of State for Employment - Alistair Darling MP

Secretary of State for Social Security - Helen Liddell MP

Secretary of State for Families and Communities - David Blunkett MP

Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food - Harriet Harman

Secretary of State for Trade and Industry - Chris Smith MP

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport - Clare Short MP

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland - Jack Cunningham MP



Minister for Transport - John Reid MP


Leader of the House of Commons/Lord President of the Council - Ron Davies MP

Leader of the House of Lords/Lord Privy Seal/Secretary of State for Wales - Neil Kinnock MP

Lord High Chancellor of the United Kingdom - Lord Irvine

Chief Secretary to the Treasury - Donald Dewar MP

Chief Whip of the House of Commons - Steve Byers MP

Attorney General of the United Kingdom - Ann Taylor MP

Chairman of the Labour Party/Minister without Portfolio - John Prescott


View attachment 719290
Dobson had received a significant promotion, from Health Secretary to Foreign Secretary.

With the UK and Japan both now under shutdowns, China and the US would be the next two countries to face a serious uptick in cases. Brushing off "panicked" advice from advisors and medical officers, Clinton continued to push forward with his "all is well" strategy -which did not go as Clinton had hoped. The pandemic began taking a brutal toll on the US, something out of which only the minds of Stephen King and Mary Shelley could imagine.



On May 26th, 1997, as the UK reached halfway through the shutdown, the World Health Organisation published a highly startling statistic. The mortality rate had now been confirmed by a number of senior scientists and health officials, and it was not good news. "1-3, 1-3, 1-3" Clinton echoed in his mind, remembering the "best case scenario" figures that Tony had given him."

"We can now state that the mortality rate of H1N5 is 9-13%."


"Shit."
how would Clinton poorly respond to the Pandemic in this TL, Clinton wouldn't be a Idiot unlike Trump in 2020 in OTL.
 
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