Page last updated at 16:55 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 17:55 UK

'Too early' to say flu virus mild

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It is too early to assume the swine flu outbreak is a mild infection just because no-one in the UK has died, England's chief medical officer says.

Sir Liam Donaldson warned against complacency because flu viruses could change character "very rapidly".

A new case of the H1N1 virus in England has taken the confirmed UK total to 28, the Department of Health said.

Leaflets suggesting ways people can treat and prevent catching swine flu have begun dropping through doors.

We must not be complacent. We know that flu viruses can change their character very rapidly as they move through populations
Sir Liam Donaldson
England's chief medical officer

Sir Liam, who updated the government's weekly cabinet meeting on the flu situation, told BBC News: "We may see an apparent peak in the incidents over the next month or so, but that doesn't mean it's gone away.

"It could be that we'll see a resurgence of the virus in the autumn and winter when the normal flu season starts.

"We must not be complacent. We know that flu viruses can change their character very rapidly as they move through populations."

He added: "These next few months are vitally important in understanding what sort of virus we're dealing with."

The latest case of swine flu, confirmed on Tuesday, was in an adult from the Slough area of Berkshire, the South Central Strategic Health Authority said.

'Quarantine rooms'

The individual, who is associated with travel to Mexico, is responding well to antiviral drugs, the authority added.

It brings the overall totals to 24 in England and four in Scotland.

Meanwhile Department of Health leaflets, stressing the importance of good hygiene, are being delivered across the UK.

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A spokesman said: "It is right that we are preparing for the possibility of a global pandemic.

"The UK's arrangements are continuing to ensure that we are well-placed to deal with this new infection."

Five UK schools hit by the virus have begun rescheduling GCSEs and A-levels as the summer exam season begins.

Three of the schools are in London, with one in Devon and one in South Gloucestershire. Four are secondary schools.

The latest to be hit by the virus is Alleyn's School in Dulwich, London, where five year-seven pupils were diagnosed on Monday.

A sixth pupil from the independent school, who visited the US during the Easter holidays, was diagnosed with the virus on Sunday.

The school said it was rescheduling A-level exams in art, biology and foreign languages for next week.

In a statement it said: "In line with procedure, the school will be writing to the examination boards who are always sympathetic to students in these circumstances."

SWINE FLU ADVICE
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Bin tissues after use
Wash hands with soap, hot water or gel
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Nine out of 10 of the parents had now collected the Tamiflu anti-viral medication offered by the Health Protection Agency, the school added.

More than 1,200 private schools have been given legal advice by the Independent Schools Council, which suggests setting up "quarantine rooms" for pupils suspected of having the virus.

It also says schools should provide a policy on what to do in case of a pandemic.

Governors at Dolphin School in Battersea, London, closed its doors as a precaution after it emerged that two pupils - siblings of pupils at Alleyn's - had been confirmed with the virus.

Swine flu has already closed South Hampstead High School in north west London, Downend in South Gloucestershire and Paignton Community and Sports College in Devon.

Around 300 other people in the UK are currently awaiting the results of tests to determine whether they have the virus.

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.

Swine flu: map of UK cases

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