UK swine flu infections rise to 32
THE number of confirmed cases of swine flu in the UK jumped to 32 yesterday, while the Scottish Government insisted plans were in place to tackle any disruption to school exams.
Four new cases were diagnosed in adults in England, all associated with travel to Mexico. North of the Border, 27 possible cases are being investigated. Scotland still has four confirmed cases, including one of person-to-person contact. One probable case, a woman in Grampian, has now proved to be negative.
Yesterday, it was revealed one Scottish student has already had to sit an exam in isolation after contact with a possible swine flu case.
In England, schools closed due to swine flu have been forced to rearrange exam time-tables, and education officials in Scotland are meeting today to discuss plans to deal with any outbreak among pupils.
Scotland's chief medical officer, Dr Harry Burns, said guidance in the United States was now not to shut schools should there be a case of swine flu.
But health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said that was not necessarily the approach that would be taken in Scotland should such a situation arise.
"At this stage, I think it is likely that we would also follow a precautionary approach," she said.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Scotland's national qualification examination is under way and pupils can be reassured that it is very much business as usual. Candidates should attend their exams unless they have a medical certificate or are otherwise advised by the school."
Eleanor Coner, information officer at the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said it was confident plans were in place to deal with possible swine flu cases.
"They have strategies to cope with things like this," she said. "I think the problem is that, at the moment, we don't get into a situation where we are crying wolf with swine flu, because we all know that eventually there is going to be some major flu epidemic and we want to take that one very seriously."
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that, while the virus currently appeared to be mild, there was a possibility it could mutate and return as a more virulent strain later in the year. She also warned that other types of flu remained a threat.
"What we are facing now in terms of H1N1 does not change at all the probability of a bird flu pandemic appearing, and that is what we have always been worried about over the past few years," she said. "That threat is still there. So, obviously, we don't want to unnecessarily deplete antiviral stocks."
Sweden yesterday confirmed its first case of swine flu, while the first US resident to die of swine flu was named as Judy Trunnell, 33, a pregnant teacher from Cameron County, near the Mexican border.
Ms Trunnell, who died on Tuesday, was hospitalised on 19 April. She slipped into a coma and her baby daughter was delivered by Caesarian section.
The World Health Organisation said experts would meet next week to consider whether vaccine makers should switch from seasonal to pandemic flu production in response to swine flu. That could affect supplies of seasonal jabs for at-risk groups.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "It is right that we are preparing for the possibility of a global pandemic."
Scotland gets 'flu tsar' to co-ordinate action on virus
SCOTLAND has appointed its own "flu tsar" to help deal with the threat of a pandemic, it emerged yesterday.
Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said Kenneth Hogg had been appointed last week to oversee the handling of the current swine flu scare and any future outbreaks.
He was previously deputy director of public health at the Scottish Government and will now be its flu director.
Ms Sturgeon said: "At the moment, he is co-ordinating particularly the health response.
"Fundamentally, at the moment, this is a health issue. But he also has oversight over the resilience room, so should we start to have an impact on schools and broader society, he would have oversight in that as well."
Westminster also announced its own "flu tsar" yesterday to handle the situation in England. NHS North East chief executive Ian Dalton has been seconded to the newly-created post of national director of NHS Flu Resilience.
Announcing the appointment, Health Secretary Alan Johnson said Mr Dalton would ensure the NHS "is in the best possible position to protect the population".
His work will include overseeing vaccination programmes and the supply of equipment and drugs in the NHS.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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