Swine flu confirmed at Scottish hospital

THE UK's first cases of swine flu were confirmed in Scotland yesterday, as countries around the world took dramatic action to try to contain the rising tide of infection.

Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said two people, a man and a woman who are being kept in isolation at a hospital in Lanarkshire, had tested positive for swine flu, while a further seven people who had been in contact with them were experiencing symptoms and undergoing tests.

The news emerged shortly before the World Health Organisation (WHO) moved a step closer to declaring the world's first flu pandemic since 1968, raising the global alert over swine flu from three to four.

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The Foreign Office last night said it was advising against all but essential travel to Mexico in the wake of the swine flu outbreak.

People in Europe were urged to avoid travelling to areas affected by the outbreak, as the death toll from suspected cases in Mexico rose to 149.

The authorities ordered all schools in the country to close as the number of cases continued to climb.

The two confirmed UK infections came after Spain announced the first European case of swine flu, with a further 20 under investigation.

Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish patients, a couple from the Polmont area of Falkirk, in Central Scotland, who had been on holiday to Mexico, were recovering well at Monklands Hospital in Airdrie. She went on: "In addition, there are currently a further seven people among the 22 who have been in contact with the two infected people who have now developed mild symptoms and are being appropriately cared for.

"I would reiterate that the threat to the public remains low and the precautionary actions we have taken over the last two days have been important in allowing us to respond appropriately and give us the best prospect of disrupting the spread of the virus."

All 22 people who were in contact with the couple after their return from Mexico have been treated with antiviral drugs as a precaution, and doctors hope they can prevent the swine flu spreading any further.

Test results from the seven potentially new cases are expected to be completed in the next 48 hours.

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"What we are trying to do is put a ring around this as quickly as possible," Ms Sturgeon said.

"We remain very encouraged by the fact that, outside Mexico, everyone who has contracted swine flu has experienced mild symptoms only."

In a day that saw rapid global developments in the swine flu outbreak, Health Secretary Alan Johnson told MPs 25 suspected cases had been reported in the UK.

He said eight of these had proved negative, with a further 14 being treated in the community while undergoing tests. A suspected case involving a Canadian woman in Manchester was later said to be "highly unlikely" to prove to be swine flu.

"There is, understandably, trepidation across the world," Mr Johnson said. But he told the Commons that the UK was one of the best-prepared countries after five years of planning for a possible flu pandemic.

The WHO said other laboratory-confirmed cases included 40 in the United States, six in Canada and one in Spain.

Almost 2,000 people in Mexico are believed to have been treated for suspected swine flu.

But not all cases have been confirmed, making it difficult to assess the death rate from this strain of H1N1 flu.

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Yesterday, Andorra Vassiliou, the European Union's health commissioner, met EU foreign ministers and advised the public to reassess their travel plans.

"They should avoid travelling to Mexico or the United States of America unless it is very urgent for them," she said.

Spanish health minister Trinidad Jimnez said his country's confirmed case involved a man who had recently been in Mexico – he was responding well to treatment and was not in a serious condition.

Suspected swine flu cases were also being investigated in France, Israel and New Zealand. And last night, it emerged that four people in the Irish Republic were being tested for the infection.

Politicians and health experts told the public not to panic and said plans were in place to deal with swine flu, should it eventually result in a pandemic being declared.

Around the world, countries took different approaches to try to stop the spread of the infection across their borders. Russia, Hong Kong and Taiwan said visitors returning from swine flu-affected areas with fevers would be quarantined, while countries from New Zealand to Israel introduced new security measures at airports and put sick travellers under observation. The US began screening for swine flu at its borders, looking out for travellers with suspect symptoms.

At Madrid's Barajas International Airport, passengers arriving from Mexico had to fill out forms detailing where they had been in the country and whether they had felt any cold symptoms.

Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines dusted off thermal scanners used during the 2003 outbreak of the respiratory condition Sars and were checking for signs of fever among passengers arriving at airports from North America. South Korea and Indonesia introduced similar screening.

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Meanwhile, many of the world's stock markets showed falls as investors worried that the deadly outbreak of swine flu could go global and derail any economic recovery.

Shares in holiday firms and airlines tumbled on the London market – British Airways was down 9 per cent – as concerns escalated over the outbreak and its impact on the travel sector.

But Scotland's chief medical officer, Harry Burns, insisted there was no need to panic over the swine fever threat.

Comparing the strain with bird flu, he said: "Avian flu was very hard to get, but once people got it, there was a high mortality rate. With swine flu, it looks on the face of it from the cases so far in North America that there are minor symptoms, which seems to suggest this may turn out to be less virulent than avian flu."

He emphasised it was "still early days", but added: "There is never any need to panic."

Sir Liam Donaldson, England's chief medical officer, said the government was well-prepared if there was an outbreak in the UK, with large stockpiles of antiviral drugs in place.



Urged crew members and passengers on flights from Mexico to advise immediately if they have any flu-like symptoms.


Plans to monitor passengers arriving from Mexico and US. Crew members asked to discuss flu-like symptoms with passengers during flights.


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149 deaths, 22 confirmed as swine flu and 81 suspected. 1,614 people have fallen ill with suspected or confirmed swine flu.


Swine flu has been confirmed in at least 40 people, in New York, Kansas, California, Texas and Ohio.


Six cases confirmed.


4 suspected cases.


Has antiviral stockpiles to provide treatment for 50 per cent of population should they become ill. Pandemic flu action plan outlines measures such as quarantine and travel restrictions. Two people in a Lanarkshire hospital are now confirmed to have swine flu. Health Secretary Alan Johnson said 25 cases of possible swine flu had been reported in the UK, of which eight had proved negative.


Reinforced checks at airports, especially for people returning from Mexico. France has a stock of more than 30 million antiviral treatments, composed of 24 million doses of Tamilflu and 9 million doses of Relenza. One suspected case.


Planes on which cases are suspected should be taxied to special zones and passengers and crews examined by medics. Imposed curbs on meat imports from Mexico, a number of US states and the Caribbean.


Temperature checks for travellers from Mexico using thermographic imaging equipment.


Has issued an emergency notice requiring people to report flu-like symptoms at ports of entry when coming from swine flu-affected places.


One suspected case.


Distributing leaflets to passengers arriving from Mexico, advising them to report to a health centre if they suffer symptoms. Spain has a stock of 10 million doses of Tamiflu. Flights to Mexico were being equipped with face masks and gloves.

One case confirmed, 17 others under investigation.


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Pamphlets are being handed out to passengers at Rome's international airport but there are no restrictions on travel. Italy has 10 million doses of Zanamivir (Relenza) and 60,000 doses of Tamiflu as well as enough powder of Tamiflu to make 30 million doses.


Countries should monitor travellers arriving from the US and Mexico for signs of the virus but it was not necessary to impose quarantine on them all, the World Health Organisation said.

WHO said it has 3 million capsules of Tamiflu stock in Dubai which will be distributed in the Middle East if there is an outbreak.


13 suspected cases.


THE Scottish Government has urged the public to take measures to prevent the spread of infections as the first swine flu cases were reported in the UK.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon, below, said simple infection control precautions should be followed. These include people regularly washing their hands and covering their mouth when coughing or sneezing.

The Scottish Government said it was liaising with NHS boards about measures to prepare for a possible pandemic of flu. Ms Sturgeon said they had significant stockpiles of two antiviral drugs – Tamiflu and Relenza – both of which had been effective in treating the H1N1 strain of swine flu in other countries.

Dr John Cowden, consultant epidemiologist at Health Protection Scotland, said virus labs were operating "well within their capabilities and capacity".

Asked what advice he would give to people with flu-like symptoms, Dr Cowden said: "People who return from affected areas and who experience flu-like symptoms should stay at home and consult their GP or NHS 24."

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A pandemic flu exercise – code-named Cauld Craw – designed to test the resilience of authorities to cope with a major outbreak was due to start yesterday, but it was postponed because of the real threat.