Saturday, July 04, 2009

Britian has a swine flu epidemic

Yesterday there were more than 7,400 confirmed cases of swine flu in the UK. If the number of cases continues to grow at the current pace, the UK could have 100,000 new cases every day by the end of August.

So far, most swine flu patients have suffered only mild symptoms. However, they are still be urged to stay away from GP surgeries or hospitals if they suspect they have the flu.


Under the Government's pandemic action plan, there are three levels of alert for a serious flu outbreak. Earlier this week the Health Secretary announced the UK would now enter the third, most serious, phase.

The first stage is Containment, which Britain entered when the first cases, a honeymoon couple, were confirmed in Scotland on April 27.

The priority is to stop the disease spreading as much as possible. Everyone with suspected swine flu has their diagnosis confirmed by a lab report, and is given the anti-viral drug Tamiflu. All recent contacts of infected people are traced and also given Tamiflu. Schools are closed if teachers or pupils contract the disease.

The second stage is Outbreak Management, which the country entered on June 25.

Action against swine flu was stepped up in three 'hot spot' areas - London, Glasgow and the West Midlands - where it was no longer possible to contain its spread.

In the hot spots, suspected cases were no longer sent for lab testing, with GPs doing the diagnosis, and people with swine flu got Tamiflu, but contacts did not as a matter of course. Schools in the hotspots were no longer automatically closed.

The third stage, which the whole country has now entered, is called Treatment.

GPs will be given the discretion to hold back Tamiflu to those with minor symptoms - and in a few weeks it may be rationed to at-risk groups. Vaccines will begin to be delivered once the first batches arrive in August.

And the weirdest thing... this flu could have been caused by a leak from a lab. Really nice.

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