Find thousands of books, manuscripts, visual materials and unpublished archives from our collections, many of them with free online access.

Winter viruses and how to beat them.

  • Videos

About this work


This programme is presented by Alice Roberts and Michael Mosley; it looks at common winter viruses such as the norovirus, influenza and RSV. The set-up is a pop-up laboratory and studio based in London’s Brunswick Centre, close to Russell Square, then Mosley makes a number of field trips to various laboratories around the UK in order to discover more about these common, but debilitating illnesses. Wendy Barclay, Chair of Influenza Virology at Imperial College, London discusses the severity of RSV, a respiratory illnesses which can affect very young children (she provides expert advice throughout), then Mosley speaks to Dr Jennifer Evans, a paediatrician at the University Hospital, Wales, who is caring for a very poorly 4 week old baby with RSV. There is a real time testing initiative for laboratories to gather data taken from samples regarding viral outbreaks across the country. Dr Catherine Moore, a virologist at Cardiff University Hospital comments. Back in the studio, advice is given about how to tell if you have the common cold or indeed, influenza (if your temperature is above 38 degrees C, then is likely to be flu, below this, a common cold); thermagraphic footage is used to illustrate this. A virus is a microbe and there are many ways in which they insinuate themselves on and into our bodies. Dr Guri Sandhi, an ENT consultant surgeon puts an endoscope up Mosley’s nose to investigate his nasal passages: the lining of his nose is pink; he does not have a cold. A volunteer with a cold undergoes the same test and mucous (snot) is evident. Next Mosley visits the Derbyshire HEA laboratory to see ‘Vomiting Larry’, invented by Catharine Makinon Booth. They perform an experiment; Larry vomits a liquid with a UV gel present. The virus spreads upwards to 3 metres away. In cleaning the mess up, Mosley reveals exactly how difficult this is to do; he is covered with the UV liquid and, if this was a real virus, would easily be a further source of its spread. Professor Ian Goodfellow, a norovirus researcher from the University of Cambridge, talks about a ‘new’ virus, ‘Sydney 2012,’ a new mutation – more people are susceptible to a new virus. In the street, Mosley tries to convince passers-by of the benefits of wearing a face mask; this is to protect people from themselves! Its proven benefit is to physically prevent people introducing the virus up their own noses. In a primary school in Bristol, Professor Andrew Easton, a virologist from the University of Warwick, proves how easy it is for children to act as both reservoirs and spreaders of germs; the children are observed as they interact – touching their mouths, eyes, noses, hair and clothing, each other and the classroom toys and materials. At the end of the day, under lights which detect the UV sensitive gel, the gel has spread everywhere. The most famous influenza viruses are then mentioned: Spanish Flu in 1918, Asian Flu 1957, Hong Kong Flu 1968 and Swine Flu in 2009 (using a small number of still photographs). Mosley goes to the Animal Health Laboratory in Surrey where he meets Ian Brown, Head of Avian Virology for the Veterinary Laboratories Agency the reasons why birds are such good reservoir for viruses are explained. Mosley is curious to discover if he has had flu this winter by having his blood tested for antibodies present; he visits the Cell Centre and Professor John Oxford, a virologist at Queen Mary College. He finds out that he has not had flu. Alice Roberts exhorts viewers to get themselves immunised if they are one of the at risk groups. Finally, Professor Bill Amos, an Evolutionary Geneticist from the University of Cambridge is asked to answer the question, do men suffer more from flu ie. is there any truth in ‘man flu’? Hormones and stress can contribute to coping with illness and examples in the animal world (red deer are mentioned) indicate that there may be different evolutionary strategies relating to illness and gender.


UK : BBC 2, 2013.

Physical description

1 DVD (60 min.) : sound, color, PAL


Broadcast on 28 January, 2013

Creator/production credits

Directed by John Maiddens, D.C. O’Neill, Richard Chambers and produced by Sarah Peat

Copyright note

© Tigress Productions Ltd for BBC.



  • English

Where to find it

  • LocationStatusAccess
    Closed stores

Permanent link