Swine flu: 100,000 UK cases a day by August

The disease can no longer be contained in the UK

More than 100,000 people could be diagnosed with swine flu every day by the end of August, the government said, announcing that the disease can no longer be contained in the UK.

A Commons statement by the health secretary, Andy Burnham, marks a watershed in the spread of the flu. No more schools will be closed, unless forced to by the lack of staff or if the pupils are especially vulnerable. Families and people in contact with those with flu will not be given preventative antiviral drugs.

There are now 7,447 diagnosed cases in the UK, but the number is doubling every week. If they continue in this way, said Burnham in his statement, ‘We could see over 100,000 cases per day by the end of August’. He later stressed that the figure ‘is a projection. It is not a fact. This is how the disease could develop and we don’t know.’

People who think they may have flu are now being advised to go online and check their symptoms on the NHS website or call the swine flu information line, on 0800 1 513 513.

Anyone still concerned after that should phone their GP, who can provide a diagnosis over the phone. If swine flu is confirmed, they will be issued with an authorisation voucher, which a ‘flu friend’ can take to an antiviral drug collection point, which may be a pharmacy or a health centre.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported on Thursday that of 69,177 cases which had been detected worldwide, only 328 people had died – a fatality rate of 0.47%.

The first batches of vaccine will arrive in August. Although the UK has ordered enough for the entire population, it will arrive in batches. At-risk groups would get it first, said Donaldson: those especially vulnerable because of diseases which have compromised their immune systems or affect their breathing, such as asthma.

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