Page last updated at 13:57 GMT, Wednesday, 3 June 2009 14:57 UK

Q&A: Swine flu in Scotland

As the number of confirmed cases of swine flu in Scotland continue to rise, BBC Scotland's health correspondent Eleanor Bradford has been answering some of the questions about the virus.


Q1. Why was there a media frenzy about swine flu to begin with, but now less coverage?

Swine flu leaflet
Leaflets with information have been sent to every household

The initial outbreak in Mexico suggested this was the kind of flu which experts had been fearing: a highly infectious strain with a high death rate.

However, the behaviour of the virus outside Mexico indicates it is a fairly mild strain of flu, which responds well to anti-virals such as Tamiflu.

Scientists have not been able to explain why Mexico was hit so hard, although the numbers of deaths there have been revised downwards.

Q2 So how big is the threat?

We know the virus is more infectious than normal flu.

About 22-30% of people who come into contact with swine flu will develop symptoms, compared to 5-15% of those who are exposed to normal flu.

Scientists in the UK are also surprised that the virus has continued to spread considering it's nearly summer and not the typical flu season.

All this suggests a pandemic is likely. However, we are not looking at the doomsday scenario predicted in some TV dramas!

The more realistic prospect is that one third of us will have the symptoms of a severe cold, and may be given anti-virals as a precaution.

However, if many of us are off work - even for just a week - that could have an impact on the economy.

The pressure of dealing with so much flu could also put a strain on the NHS.

Scientists are working on a vaccine which could avert a major outbreak - but this will take six months.

That's why it's so important to observe good hygiene - to reduce the spread of the virus until the vaccine is ready.

Q3 If it's a mild strain, why are four people in Scotland critically ill?

Any kind of flu can be serious if you have underlying health problems.

Two of the people who have become critically ill were already weakened by other conditions.

At the moment one man who is critically ill doesn't appear to have other health problems, but doctors are still investigating.

Evidence from other countries suggests between four and six people in every 100 who get swine flu will be hospitalised.

Between one and nine in every 1,000 will die. This is in line with the death rate for normal seasonal flu, which most of us don't worry about.

Q4 Should I try to get hold of Tamiflu, and should I take it?

The Scottish Government says it has enough anti-virals (such as Tamiflu) for half the population.

As the evidence suggests only one third of the population are susceptible to the virus, that should be plenty.

It's important only to take Tamiflu if you're told to do so by a doctor.

We could make the virus resistant to anti-virals if we use them irresponsibly.

Q5 What if I live in an area where there's been an outbreak, or if my child's school is closed?

Don't panic, and follow the advice given by local health professionals.

The chance you (or your children) have come into contact with the virus is still low.

Even if you have been infected, the chances of serious health problems are no greater than normal seasonal flu.

Be on the look-out for symptoms and if you have any, stay at home and contact NHS 24 on 08454 24 24 24.

It's important to do your bit to prevent further spread of the virus by reducing contact with other people as much as possible.


If you have further questions for Eleanor, email newsonlinescotland@bbc.co.uk and we will publish both questions and answers.



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