Enough drugs stockpiled for swine flu outbreak, say officials

Ireland has stockpiled enough drugs to tackle any infection of swine flu in the country, health officials said today.

More than 100 people have so far died of an outbreak in Mexico which has prompted fears of a global epidemic similar to avian flu in 2005.

The first suspected case of swine flu in Europe was recorded in Spain today as Irish public health officials met to assess the risk here.

Experts from the HSE, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and the Department of Health and Children are monitoring the situation very closely.

The HSE’s head of health protection, Dr Kevin Kelleher said: “We haven’t seen any cases in Ireland as yet, but it is important to be prepared for any possible cases that may arise.

“We have issued advice to GPs and clinicians nationwide on managing any suspected cases.”

He added: “Ireland has been preparing for situations like this for several years, and we have robust and detailed plans in place to respond.

“The H1N1 swine flu virus is sensitive to the anti-viral drugs of which we have in place ample stockpiles for Ireland. We are and will continue to closely follow the emerging situation. ”

No travel restrictions to Mexico or elsewhere have been advised by the Department of Foreign Affairs, but the situation is under ongoing review by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The issue will be discussed at the General Affairs & External Relations Council meeting, being attended by Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin, in Luxembourg today.

In Mexico, more than 1,400 possible cases of pneumonia linked to swine flu have been identified since mid-March and 103 people have died.

In the US, 20 cases have been confirmed in California, Texas, New York and Ohio.

“Investigations are ongoing to determine the source of the infection and whether additional people have been infected with similar swine influenza viruses,” said a HSE spokesman.

“The virus appears to have spread from human to human but it is not yet clear how easily it spreads.”

Symptoms of the flu include fever and respiratory tract illness (cough, sore throat, runny nose), headache, muscle aches and possibly vomiting and diarrhoea.

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