Page last updated at 03:41 GMT, Wednesday, 6 May 2009 04:41 UK

Government names swine flu 'tsar'


Advert warns about the dangers of swine flu

The government has appointed a swine flu "tsar" for England to deal with the threat of a pandemic.

Ian Dalton, currently chief executive of NHS North East, will become national director for NHS Flu Resilience.

He will ensure that the NHS "is in the best possible position to protect the population," the health secretary said.

The appointment came as the number of UK cases of the H1N1 virus reached 28 and information leaflets about the disease began dropping through doors.

Mr Dalton, who will take up the post immediately, will coordinate the supply of anti-viral medication and the implementation of any future vaccination programme.

He said: "The NHS is well-placed to deal with such an eventuality and I am looking forward to working with colleagues throughout England to ensure the NHS continues to respond appropriately to any developing situation."

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said Mr Dalton would "support the vital operational side of our plans" for a major flu outbreak.

"We have been preparing for the possibility of a pandemic for a number of years and the World Health Organisation says we are among the most prepared countries in the world," he added.

School closures

On Tuesday, England's chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson warned that it was too early to assume the swine flu outbreak was a mild infection just because no-one in the UK had died.

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

Sir Liam spoke after the latest case of swine flu, an adult from the Slough area of Berkshire, was confirmed.

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

Five UK schools remain closed after being hit by the virus. Three are in London - Alleyn's School in Dulwich, Dolphin School in Battersea and South Hampstead High School.

Downend in South Gloucestershire and Paignton Community and Sports College in Devon have also shut their doors.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families confirmed that officials were working with schools and exam boards to put contingency plans in place for the summer exam season.

"Arrangements will be made on a case by case basis, so that all students are fairly treated," she said.

Exam regulator Ofqual is due to hold a meeting on Wednesday to discuss plans, which could mean pupils sitting exams elsewhere, or receiving final grades based on other evidence, such as coursework or modules already completed.

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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