Page last updated at 14:47 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 15:47 UK

Scots swine flu couple discharged

Iain and Dawn Askham
The Askhams had been on their honeymoon in Mexico

The first Britons confirmed to have caught swine flu have been discharged from hospital after recovering.

Newly-wed couple Iain and Dawn Askham, from Polmont near Falkirk, were found to have the virus after returning from a trip to Mexico.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said one male who had been in contact with the couple was now being treated as a "probable" case after being re-tested.

If he tests positive, it would be the first onward transmission in the UK.

A further 27 possible cases are under investigation in Scotland.

The Askhams were released after being treated for five nights in an isolation ward at Monklands Hospital, Airdrie.

They returned to their Polmont home on Thursday afternoon, but made no comment to the waiting media.

Virus 'adapting'

So far, there have been eight confirmed cases of swine flu in the UK and the UN's World Health Organization has raised the alert to level five, meaning a pandemic is considered "imminent".

First Minister Alex Salmond told the Scottish Parliament that a total of 41 people had now been tested and cleared for swine flu, which has been linked to about 160 deaths in Mexico.

Askhams leave hospital

The Askhams left hospital on Thursday

He said the person-to-person spread of swine flu had to be anticipated.

"What we have done, it seems, in our identified cases is effectively bought ourselves some time in terms of interrupting the spread of the virus," he said.

"That is obviously very valuable because the more time you can buy, the less people are going to fall ill."

The first minister went on: "The reality now, however, from the World Health Organization is that we must anticipate - however good our measures are, however effective our countermeasures, and however much we try to interrupt the spread of this virus - there is a likelihood there will be cases - further cases, and person-to-person cases."

During first minister's questions, Mr Salmond said the last two tests of individuals who had been in close contact with the Askhams had come back negative for swine flu.

But he said two new close contact cases had been identified, while one man who had previously tested negative was being re-tested.

SWINE FLU ADVICE
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Bin tissues after use
Wash hands with soap, hot water or gel

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Ms Sturgeon said later that the man had tested positive for influenza A, which meant he was now being treated as a "probable" case. Tests are continuing.

Mr Salmond told MSPs that in the past 24 hours a further 19 travel-related possible cases had been identified in Scotland and 24 possible cases had been cleared following negative test results.

The Glasgow case is travel-related and not connected to the Askhams, Mr Salmond said.

He explained a probable case was where someone tests positive for Type A flu, but not the full strain of the virus, which can only be confirmed through more detailed testing.

MSPs were also told that anti-viral drugs were being moved from central stockpiles to more local distribution points.

The possible cases of swine flu under investigation in Scotland are in the following areas: Ayrshire and Arran 1, Borders 1, Fife 2, Forth valley 3, Grampian 5, Greater Glasgow and Clyde 5, Highland 1, Lanarkshire 4, Lothian 2, Tayside 3.

Meanwhile in Helensburgh, five pupils at Hermitage Academy were being kept at home as a precautionary measure after they came in contact with someone recommended to be tested for swine flu.

A dedicated swine flu advice line for Scotland went live on Thursday afternoon.

The line, which can be accessed through NHS 24, will give information about swine flu and what to do if people have concerns.

Callers to the NHS 24 number - 08454 24 24 24 - will be given the option of being put straight through to a dedicated team dealing with swine flu.



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