THE World Health Organisation (WHO) is poised to declare a global swine flu pandemic despite suggestions by scientists that the H1N1 virus responsible may be no more dangerous than the average annual flu season.
Health officials yesterday confirmed two more cases of swine flu in Britain, bringing the total to 15. A six-year-old Oxfordshire girl who had holidayed in Mexico became the youngest victim, while the second victim was the husband of a woman who contracted the virus after the couple returned from Mexico.
Meanwhile in Scotland, a man who flew from Texas to Prestwick via Birmingham last Thursday was named as a probable victim. All UK victims have so far shown mild flu-like symptoms and are recovering well.
The first case of pigs being infected with the new virus emerged last night when officials in the Canadian province of Alberta said some animals were thought to have been infected by a farm worker who had recently visited Mexico and became ill on his return.
The is this week expected to escalate the outbreak to a full pandemic — level six on its six-point scale — because of the continuing spread of swine flu among people who haven’t been to Mexico. There is concern that the virus may become resistant to drugs.
Dr Michael Ryan, WHO director of global alert and response, yesterday said there was no evidence yet of a sustained spread of the virus outside North America. He added, however, that a pandemic remained imminent. So far, 17 countries have reported 653 cases of H1N1 and 17 Mexicans have died.