The health secretary has confirmed two new cases of swine flu in the UK, taking the total of those infected to 34.
Alan Johnson told MPs that one of the new cases is a child from one of the five schools that have already closed. He stressed that despite the new cases there is still no evidence of ‘sustained’ person-to-person transmission of the infection in the UK.
However, he warned that ‘this does remain a serious situation which could rapidly escalate’.
The Health Protection Agency is carrying out tests on 390 people who may have the H1N1 virus.
Mr Johnson said a new alternative quick response system was being developed in case the outbreak escalates and a flu helpline will be opened in the autumn.
The chief medical officer said older people in the UK may have encountered the virus before and developed a level of immunity if the human part of the virus has not mutated, and there may be some ‘cross protection in over-50s in particular’.
He said if that turns out to be the case it would help the situation. The H1N1 virus is similar but not the same as the usual seasonal flu and Spanish flu.