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Swine flu spread speeds

Mon May 11th, 2009

The spread of swine flu seemed to accelerate over the weekend as the number of confirmed cases doubled.

Worldwide some 4,379 cases of infection have now been confirmed - and deaths have been reported for the first time in Costa Rica and Canada.

The USA reported its second death and some 2,254 confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organisation.

There were six cases in Brazil and the first case reported in Australia, sparking fears that the virus would get a hold on the southern hemisphere during the flu season.

In Britain the total number of confirmed cases reached 55 with another 384 cases under investigation.

The new cases included four children from a London school that has been closed because of the outbreak.

Another two cases were adults and both were thought to have contracted the virus from other patients in Britain.

The spread of the virus led the UK Health Protection Agency to issue new advice to schools.

The advice seemed to suggest that only children showing symptoms of flu should be kept away from school. Other close friends and family of infected children should be given antiviral medicine but carry on their lives, it says.

* British scientists have unravelled the genes of the swine flu virus, it has been announced.

And the first steps have been taken to developing a vaccine against the virus, as its spread accelerates.

The virus's genetic code was broken by the Health Protection Agency.

Professor Maria Zambon, Director of the Health Protection Agency?s Centre for Infections, said: "We are continuing to learn more and more each day about swine flu.

"The pure sample of virus that we have isolated, together with its genetic fingerprint, will be important resources as scientific organisations join forces on the development of an effective vaccine.

"The rapid assessment of this virus will ultimately help us to make future decisions regarding the health implications of swine flu."

The British government said it already had agreements in place to buy some 155 million worth of vaccines to tackle a pandemic of any new flu virus. Two companies GSK and Baxter are signatories.

Health secretary Alan Johnson said: "A significant step towards protecting the world's health against swine flu has been taken.

"The speed with which vaccine prototypes can be created to combat potential pandemics is testimony to the dedication and world-class expertise of Health Protection Agency researchers.

"We have been preparing for the possibility of a pandemic for some time. We now look to the vaccine industry to produce the required quantities of vaccine as quickly as possible."

Discuss this report here

Tags: Flu & Viruses | World Health | North America | Travel | UK News | Australia | Child Health

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