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Swine flu 'cannot be contained'
07-02-2009, 02:45 PM,
#1
Swine flu 'cannot be contained'
Quote:The rising number of swine flu cases mean trying to contain the virus is no longer an option, the government says.

Ministers said the emergency response would now move to a new "treatment" phase across the UK as there may soon be 100,000 new cases a day.

It means anti-flu drugs will no longer be given to the close contacts of those infected nor will lab testing be done to confirm cases.

The move has been made to relieve the pressure on the health service.

The announcement, which comes into effect immediately, has long been expected.

It does not mean the pandemic virus is becoming more deadly, just that it can no longer be contained.

When people are displaying symptoms, they should contact the NHS by phone, the government said.

If doctors believe the person is suffering from swine flu they will be told to stay at home and be given a voucher which a friend or family member can take to a drug collection point, such as a pharmacy.

Although GPs will have the discretion not to prescribe anti-viral drugs.

Some experts believe the drugs should just be targeted at the most vulnerable as the virus is quite mild and overuse can lead to resistance.

Ministers rejected this option, but said doctors may want to limit use in certain situations where they may be inundated with calls.

The need for lab testing had already been lifted in several hotspots, such as London and Glasgow.

But the rest of the UK had been operating a containment strategy, which meant cases had to be confirmed and drugs were also offered to close contacts in a bid to prevent flu developing.

It also led the closure of several schools. This will still be an option under the new phase, but shut downs will not be routine.

Andy Burnham, the health secretary in England, said: "The national focus will be on treating the increasing numbers affected by swine flu.

"Cases are doubling every week and on this trend we could see over 100,000 cases per day by the end of August."

'Worthwhile'

But he said the attempts to contain the virus had been worthwhile.

"Our efforts during the containment phase have given us precious time to learn more about the virus."

He confirmed vaccines should be available from next month, with 60m doses available by the end of next year.

Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon announced similar changes to the flu strategy at a simultaneous briefing in Edinburgh.

She said: "We've always said it would be impossible to limit the spread of what is a contagious virus indefinitely."

There have been more than 7,000 confirmed cases in the UK since the first outbreak in April. Three people have died, but all had underlying health problems.

However, it is thought there will have been a number of people who did not get a formal diagnosis because their symptoms were so mild.

Both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats backed the move to the new phase.

But Mr Lansley criticised the delay in getting the national pandemic flu line up-and-running, saying it was meant to be operational at the same time as anti-viral distribution arrangements.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb added: "These figures are seriously worrying.

"Making sure that the flu strategy works as intended will be a huge test for the Department of Health in the months to come."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8130097.stm
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07-03-2009, 09:08 AM,
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Swine flu 'cannot be contained'
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