Page last updated at 15:45 GMT, Saturday, 2 May 2009 16:45 UK

UK swine flu cases increase to 15

Barry Greatorex: 'People shouldn't panic'

The number of confirmed cases of swine flu in the UK has risen to 15.

The increase, from 13, comes as health chiefs await the results of more than 600 tests for the disease.

Both new cases were in England, involving an adult in Merseyside - the husband of a woman already diagnosed - and a six-year-old girl in Oxfordshire.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said both new cases had visited Mexico. The Merseyside couple were being treated at home and are "quite well", they added.

The HPA also said the girl had not exhibited symptoms while attending school, meaning school closure was not necessary.

Map of swine flu outbreaks

The increase in confirmed numbers comes after the first two cases of Britons falling ill without having travelled to Mexico.

Barry Greatorex, 43, from South Gloucestershire, had been in contact with a traveller to the country.

And Graeme Pacitti of Falkirk was infected through contact with the first British people to develop the flu.

But the Health Protection Agency said those two cases did "not yet represent sustained human-to-human transmission".

"All patients had contact with individuals who had reported illness and travel history to Mexico."

The agency said the risk to the general public was still very low, but advised anyone who had been ill with flu symptoms in Mexico to get tested on their return to the UK.

Cases had previously been confirmed in Newcastle, Scotland, Merseyside, Devon, South Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and London.

Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said that one new probable case is currently under investigation in Scotland, and that it was known to be travel-related.

Mr Greatorex - who has been quarantined and given treatment - said he believed he contracted it while in a meeting with a colleague who was "coughing and spluttering".

He told the BBC: "I knew it wasn't just an ordinary cold or an ordinary flu. We're dealing with it as a family. We're quite close as a family so we're sticking together through it."

Neither his wife nor son had so far shown any signs of the illness, he added.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson: 'There's no scaling down here of our preparedness'

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said that as of Friday, 26,000 calls had been made to the NHS flu line.

"Whilst we hope for the best and all the evidence is that's working, we have to prepare for other eventualities and that's what we're doing.

"We definitely have a virus that's gone from swine to human and then been developed from human to human, so we're quite rightly, that's why we're at phase five of a WHO alert.

"That didn't happen with Sars and it didn't happen with bird flu, so quite clearly there is a flu out there that we've never seen before, so we're not in any way complacent."

Dr Iain Stephenson, senior lecturer in infectious diseases at the University of Leicester, said it was important not to over-react, but also be prepared.


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He told the BBC: "It's quite possible that this will just slowly disappear and that will be the end of it. However, it is possible that this virus could adapt and change more rapidly."

Symptoms of swine flu in humans appear to be similar to those produced by standard, seasonal flu.

The HPA said all those in the UK who have contracted the disease appear to be suffering mild symptoms.

In cases outside Mexico - where officials have revised the number of suspected deaths from 176 to 101 - the effects do not appear to be severe, although the death of a Mexican child has been confirmed in the US.

The World Health Organization, meanwhile, has set its pandemic alert level at five and says it has no immediate plans to move to the highest level of six.

'Wait and see'

A UK schoolgirl, who is among the 15 people to have contracted the virus, is believed to have been on the same plane as the first two Britons to be diagnosed with the disease.

The girl's school - Downend, which is also in South Gloucestershire - will be closed until 11 May and parents have been told to contact their family doctor if any child shows symptoms.

Officials said the two South Gloucestershire cases were not connected.

Another school in Paignton, Devon, also closed its doors this week after it was confirmed a 12-year-old girl had contracted swine flu.

Dr Gabriel Scally, regional director of public health for south-west England, said the decision to close the schools was a necessary precaution.

Mexico: 101 suspected deaths, 16 confirmed
US: one death, at least 141 confirmed cases
New Zealand: 4 confirmed, 12 probable cases
Canada: 35 confirmed cases
Spain: 15 confirmed cases
UK: 15 confirmed cases
Germany: 4 confirmed cases
France, Israel, Costa Rica: 2 confirmed cases each
The Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong, South Korea, Italy, Irish Republic: 1 confirmed case each

Daily visits to the NHS Direct website have reached 85,000, compared with about 55,000 a week earlier.

Information leaflets about how to reduce the chances of spreading infection are due to begin arriving in people's homes from next Tuesday.

The only destination the government is telling travellers to avoid as a result of the outbreak is Mexico.

Simon Calder, travel editor for the Independent newspaper, said several major operators had cancelled flights to Mexico.

He said operators were giving people planning to travel over the next week the option of changing destinations or a refund.

However holidaymakers with travel plans for the next three weeks may only be offered a change in destination.

Those with plans any further in advance would have to "wait and see", and were currently unable to cancel or change destinations.

Members of the public can call 0800 1513513 for recorded information about swine flu. The number for NHS 24 in Scotland is 08454 24 24 24.

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