UK swine flu numbers rise three-fold in past week

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THE number of swine flu cases in the UK has trebled in just one week, with 6,929 confirmed cases across the UK yesterday, compared to 2,236 a week ago.

Of these, 1,127 were in Scotland, with 57 new cases reported yesterday.

The surge in cases forced the government's emergency COBRA committee to convene in London and health secretary Andy Burnham will make a statement to MPs today on how the country is grappling with the pandemic.

With the spiralling numbers, the NHS has given up on tracing anyone who may have been in contact with a patient. Instead, the Department of Health said it would just focus on individuals who had contracted the flu.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown sought to reassure people about the way the NHS was coping with the outbreak, which has so far claimed three lives in the UK.

"We continue to monitor the situation closely, making sure arrangements are in place so the UK remains well placed to deal with this pandemic," he said.

Mr Brown sidestepped a call from Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire), to recall MPs from their 82-day summer recess if the disease took a more virulent turn.

In Scotland, the majority of the new cases – 43 – were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

In Lanarkshire, a further eight people were diagnosed with the H1N1 virus, three in Forth Valley, and one in Grampian, Tayside and the Lothians. Six people with the virus remain in hospital.

Scotland's health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said basic hygiene safeguards had limited the spread. She added: "We continue to closely monitor the patterns of spread and development and we are well prepared to cope should the circumstances demand it as we progress closer to the availability of a vaccine."

Four people in the Borders have now had swine flu – an area that has previously been free of the disease.

And six Scottish friends revealed they were struck down with swine flu after a lads' holiday to Ibiza.

Meanwhile the first picture of the youngest victim of swine flu in the UK was released yesterday.

At Birmingham Coroner's Court, the family of Sameerah Ahmad showed a picture of their daughter looking happy with wide eyes and a broad smile despite being wheelchair-bound with a medical tube in her nose.

She tested positive for swine flu but also had a rare and life-threatening disorder affecting her small intestine.