Page last updated at 17:02 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 18:02 UK

Fifth 'probable' swine flu case

Scientist testing for swine flu
Scientists believe they will soon be able to produce a vaccine

A fifth "probable" case of swine flu is being investigated in Greenock, Inverclyde, health officials have confirmed.

The woman involved is the mother of a three-year-old nursery pupil already suspected to have the virus.

The nursery and a primary school were closed in the town on Tuesday as a precaution.

A five-year-old pupil at the primary school and his mother are among the other "probable" cases.

Scotland hopes to stockpile enough supplies of any new swine flu vaccine to protect the entire population.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement when she updated MSPs on the Scottish Government's efforts to combat the virus.

I have decided, in discussion with the health ministers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to secure and purchase early supplies of vaccine
Nicola Sturgeon
Health secretary

Ms Sturgeon said scientists had successfully identified the genetic fingerprint of the European strain of swine flu.

This was a "crucial first step" in creating a vaccine, she said.

Ms Sturgeon told Holyrood that she and her counterparts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland aimed to secure enough supplies to allow vaccination of the entire UK population against swine flu.

The UK already has advance supply contracts in place for a pandemic vaccine, but this could only be triggered in certain circumstances - like the World Health Organisation declaring Phase 6 of a pandemic.

"Obviously we do not know when or if these triggers will be reached," Ms Sturgeon said.

"We do know that if we simply wait until then we risk losing the capacity manufacturers have available now which would allow us to build up a stockpile and get a vaccination programme under way before the winter.

"I can therefore advise parliament that I have decided, in discussion with the health ministers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to secure and purchase early supplies of vaccine."

'Priority groups'

She added that negotiations were ongoing with manufacturers, and that it was hoped a contract and delivery schedule would be agreed very soon.

Ms Sturgeon said that by the time a pandemic was declared, global demand for a vaccine would outstrip the capacity to supply it.

"Under any scenario and even after our sleeping contracts kick in, it will be a number of months before we get supplies sufficient for 100% of the population," she said.

"The decision that we have taken now to utilise spare manufacturing capacity is therefore important in seeking to secure an early supply to allow a vaccination programme - focused initially on priority groups - to get under way as quickly as possible."

Northern Ireland confirmed its first swine flu case on Thursday, bringing the UK total to 72, including five in Scotland.

A further five people in Greenock, including the five-year-old boy at Ravenscraig Primary and three-year-old Ladybird nursery pupil and their mothers, are being treated as "probable" cases.

None of the cases are said to be giving clinical cause for concern.

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