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Contagion! The BBC Four Pandemic

Hannah Fry leads a nationwide experiment to help plan for the next deadly flu pandemic, which could happen at any time. How many will it kill? What can we do about it?

The government rates the global outbreak of a deadly flu virus as a major threat to the UK. It could happen at any time. To predict the impact of the next pandemic more accurately than ever before, new data is needed - and lots of it. Dr Hannah Fry is on the case.

She sets out to recruit the nation to download the BBC Pandemic app in a ground-breaking experiment to help plan for when the next deadly virus comes to the UK. How quickly will it spread? How many could it kill? What can we do about it? The BBC Four Pandemic experiment will find out.

Hannah masterminds the experiment and adopts the role of Patient Zero by walking the streets of Haslemere in Surrey to launch the outbreak. Meanwhile, emergency physician Dr Javid Abdelmoneim finds out why flu is still such a danger to society a century after Spanish flu killed up to 100 million people worldwide. He meets researchers trying to discover what makes some people more contagious than others and visits a factory that will produce vaccine when the next pandemic flu virus emerges.

Armed with the information he gathers and the results of the BBC Four Pandemic experiment, Hannah and Javid make a shocking revelation.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Thu 22 Mar 2018 21:00

About the app

BBC Pandemic could be key in preparing for the next pandemic outbreak. In order to better understand how an infectious disease like flu can spread, researchers need data about how we travel and interact.

You can help them, without even trying.

The BBC Four Pandemic has been running since September 27th 2017 and is the biggest citizen science experiment of its kind.

The more people that download and run the app, the more successful the experiment will be. You can download the BBC Pandemic App onto your smart-phone via App Store or Google Play.

The app will track your approximate movement hourly for 24 hours. (Don’t worry, it won’t know exactly where, or who you are.) It will also ask some questions about your journeys and the people you spent time with during those 24 hours.

All data collected will be sent to a research team from the University of Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The data collected between September and November 2017 was used to simulate the spread of a highly infectious flu across the UK and predict how many of us might die - the results are revealed in Contagion! The BBC Four Pandemic. The data collected between December 2017 and December 2018 will contribute to this new gold-standard set for use in future simulations and in wider Pandemic research.

Participation in the study is entirely voluntary, and all data will be grouped to ensure your anonymity. You can opt out at any time.

For information about how the BBC handles your personal information, please read our Privacy Policy

Why should I take part?

There are flu outbreaks every year but in the last 100 years, there have been four pandemics of a particularly deadly flu, including the Spanish Influenza outbreak which hit in 1918, killing up to 100 million people worldwide. Nearly a century later, a catastrophic flu pandemic still tops the UK Government’s Risk Register of threats to this country. Key to the Government’s response plan are mathematical models which simulate how a highly contagious disease may spread. These models help to decide how best to direct NHS resources, like vaccines and protective clothing. But the models are only as good as the data that goes into them.

The more people of all ages that take part in BBC Pandemic, the better that data will be so the app will be available until the end of Dec 2018.

By identifying the human networks and behaviours that spread a deadly flu, BBC Pandemic will help to make these models more accurate and, in turn, help to stem the next pandemic.

This project has been commissioned by the BBC, and is being undertaken in collaboration with researchers at the University of Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


Role Contributor
Presenter Hannah Fry
Presenter Javid Abdelmoneim
Production Company 360 Production
Executive Producer Danielle Peck
Executive Producer Belinda Cherrington
Producer Cressida Kinnear
Editor Laurence Williamson


Download the BBC Pandemic App

Download the BBC Pandemic App

For more information about data protection measures, read our FAQ's.

How does BBC Pandemic work?

How does BBC Pandemic work?

Information on usage of the Pandemic App