Nicola Sturgeon said the way swine flu cases were handled would change
The rate of people being admitted to hospital with swine flu in Scotland is now on a par with the situation in the US, it has emerged.
The Scottish Government has announced changes to the handling of swine flu cases, with doctors being used to make diagnoses in some areas.
Ministers stressed most people with the virus had relatively mild symptoms.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global flu pandemic - the first since 1968.
The number of confirmed cases in Scotland rose by 26 on Thursday to 337, with 18 of the new cases coming in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area. Nine people in the area are being treated in hospital.
Three new cases have also been confirmed in NHS Highland, two in NHS Lothian and three in NHS Lanarkshire.
A class at St Vincent's Primary in Carnwadric, Glasgow, has been sent home for a week and offered Tamiflu after a pupil tested positive.
Meanwhile, 41 pupils at Carluke High, St Andrews and St Brides, Calderglen High and Craighead School have been asked to stay at home for a week after a music teacher from North Lanarkshire was confirmed with the virus.
There is one probable case in the NHS Grampian area, while a further 659 possible cases are also being investigated across Scotland.
A total of 337 cases have been confirmed in Scotland
Earlier, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs: "We have seen a rapid increase in the number of confirmed cases in Scotland over the past 10 days.
"Based on this experience, Health Protection Scotland has expressed the view that sustained community transmission appears to be taking place."
Ms Sturgeon went on: "Of the 311 confirmed cases in Scotland, 18 have been admitted to hospital for clinical reasons, giving us a hospitalisation rate broadly in line with that seen in the United States.
"While we are seeing a small number of people develop complications, most of whom have underlying health conditions, it is still the case that the vast majority of people contracting the virus are experiencing relatively mild symptoms."
The health secretary said that, in areas where there were large numbers of cases - such as Dunoon, Glasgow and Paisley - diagnosis would be by a doctor rather than through laboratory tests.
Anti-virals, such as Tamiflu, would also only be given to the very close contacts of those with the virus to prevent the virus developing resistance.
In other areas with small numbers of cases, the current policy of tracing contacts and trying to contain an outbreak will continue.
Ms Sturgeon said the policy of trying to slow the spread of the virus had been successful, adding health boards had dealt "exceptionally well" with the outbreak so far.
But she warned: "There will come a point when even this more flexible approach to containment will no longer be effective and the focus will shift from containing the spread of the virus to mitigating its impact."
The health secretary said a pandemic could have a wide-ranging impact, even if symptoms continued to be no more serious than seasonal flu, adding: "Under some scenarios, maintaining business exactly as normal will not be possible or practical."
For a swine flu pandemic to be declared, officials would have to verify the disease has established itself outside North America, where the crisis began.
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