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Sunday, 2 January, 2000, 17:20 GMT
Sailors 'ship in' flu bug

Tall Ships It is believed the bug was passed on by sailors on visiting tall ships

A public health specialist has revealed that Tall Ships which visited Orkney during their tour around Scotland late last summer brought over the strain of flu currently affecting many people here.

Dr John Curnow, who identified the h3n2 strain, said around a dozen local people came down with the virus shortly after the annual race.

It appears the bug probably came from visitors on Australian tall ships.

Hospital ward The health service has been put under strain
Dr Curnow said, "The victims all had contact with Tall Ships crew or personnel.

"Within 72 hours they displayed all the virus's symptoms - fever, coughs, sneezes and aching muscles.

The bug - believed to be a strain of Hong Kong flu - was first identified in Sydney two years ago and has been responsible for the worst flu epidemic in Australia for 30 years - affecting some 3.5 million people.

National Health Service figures released last week showed that another flu virus is working its way up the country from the south of England.

Dramatic rise expected

In Scotland, GPs are already seeing nearly 60 cases of the southern flu in every 100,000 people but that is expected to rise dramatically as it makes it way north.

Dr Douglas Fleming, of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said, "Flu is certainly with us and the outbreak is likely to get worse before we see it getting better.

"The way that it is spreading this year seems to show it is travelling up the country."

The two bugs are set to stretch already strained hospital resources to the limit and see workforces across the country stripped over the next month.

Health workers themselves are among the highest at risk.

In a bid to minimise the damage inflicted by the Sydney h3n2 bug and the southern flu virus, a Scottish Executive health spokeswoman said, "We're asking those not in the health risk categories to stay at home and avoid calling GPs if possible."

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See also:
02 Jan 98 |  Influenza
Coughs and sneezes spread diseases
01 Mar 99 |  South Asia
WHO blames 'flu bug for Afghan illness
06 Jan 99 |  Health
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06 Jan 99 |  Health
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