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UK among best prepared for swine flu outbreak

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Health secretary Alan Johnson has attempted to calm fears over an outbreak of a new strain of flu called swine influenza.

Speaking on The Politics Show yesterday, Mr Johnson said the UK was one of the two best prepared countries in the world for any outbreak, having stockpiled £0.5bn worth of anti-viral drugs.

But he said it would be “futile” to suspend travel between the UK and Mexico, where the virus, also known as H1N1, is suspected to have caused the deaths of more than 100 people. Cases have also been reported in the US although no one has died.

The virus responds to drugs Tamiflu and Relenza, which the NHS has been stockpiling in case of pandemic influenza.

There has not been a confirmed case in the United Kingdom, but that could change very quickly”

Mr Johnson said: “So far there’s not been a confirmed case in the United Kingdom, or indeed in Europe, but that could change very quickly.”

He said the UK and France were the two best prepared countries in the world.

Scottish health minister Nicola Sturgeon told Good Morning Scotland plans for dealing with a flu outbreak were well advanced.

She said: “We have our pandemic framework in place. For example, we have significant stocks of the anti-virals that are proving to be effective in Mexico, so we’ll continue to refine our plans to make sure that we are prepared for whatever might happen.”

Two tourists undergoing tests

Two Scottish tourists are undergoing tests for the virus after returning from Mexico with flu-like symptoms.

People returning from trips to affected areas have been told to monitor their health for seven days and telephone their GP or NHS Direct if they feel unwell.

The Health Protection Agency is monitoring the situation.

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