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    03 July 2009

    UK fears huge surge in Influenza A (H1N1) flu cases

    Health officials in Spain and France have played down fears of a surge in H1N1 flu cases, saying British warnings are exaggerated. Spain has Europe’s second-largest number of flu victims after the UK, but is confident of staying on top of the virus. Madrid said it was pointless speculating about what might happen.

    “We are in no position to predict the future,” said Spain’s Health Minister Trinidad Jimenez. “In Spain we are seeing the level of contagion reach 20 – 25 a day. To plan for a worse scenario, as the British Health Minister is doing, seems to me to be rather over the top. We should avoid speculating about something we don’t know.”

    Official government figures show nearly seven and a half thousand cases in in the UK, and about a tenth of that number in Spain. France said the situation in mainland Europe is completely different to that in the UK.

    The British government predicts 100,000 new cases a day in the UK by the end of August, and said tactics must change from trying to contain the flu to treating the increasing numbers falling ill.

    “We’ve got to plan for the worst, and that’s why I was open about that level of projection,” said Britain’s Health Minister Andy Burnham. “That’s why I’ve said that that explains our move to this kind of treatment phase.”

    A pandemic flu vaccine should be available by the end of the summer, although sufferers continue to be treated with Tamiflu. Reports that a man in Denmark and a woman in Japan have become resistent to the drug were accepted by its makers, Roche, as being within clinical expectations.

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