Four people undergo tests here for deadly global virus

FOUR people have undergone specialist medical tests amid fears that the deadly swine flu has reached our shores.

Last night, health authorities were awaiting the results of final tests on the four individuals who had complained of flu-like symptoms. Another test carried out on Sunday returned with a negative result.

Chief medical officer at the Department of Health Dr Tony Holohan said the National Pandemic Emergency Plan has been put in place to “ensure we are ready for any eventuality”.

The samples being tested were taken from four people who returned to Ireland from Mexico and parts of the United States in the past few days and complained of flu-like symptoms.

The World Health Organisation raised its pandemic alert level to 4, verifying human-to-human swine flu, hours after the first British cases of the disease were confirmed.

Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon told a press conference in Edinburgh: “I can confirm that tests have demonstrated conclusively that the two Scottish cases of swine flu are positive.”

Earlier yesterday, Europe’s first case was confirmed in Spain, where another 20 people suspected of having the virus are under observation.

World stock markets fell yesterday as investors fretted the deadly outbreak could go global and derail any global economic recovery.

The virus is thought to have caused more than 140 deaths in Mexico, the epicentre of the outbreak with more than 1,600 cases suspected. In the US, more than 40 cases, none fatal, have been confirmed and six in Canada, the World Health Organisation said.

Health Minister Mary Harney said her department was not advising against travel to areas affected by the virus. But in Luxembourg, EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou urged Europeans to postpone non-essential travel to parts of the US and Mexico affected by swine flu.

Reacting angrily, Dr Richard Besser, acting head of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said the EU recommendation was not warranted.

“At this point, I would not put a travel restriction or recommendation against coming to the United States,” he said.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and the Health Service Executive (HSE) have been actively monitoring the Irish situation in conjunction with the Department of Health and Children and the World Health Organisation. The HSE’s head of health protection, Dr Kevin Kelleher, said: “We have issued advice to GPs and clinicians nationwide on managing any suspected cases.

“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 ample stockpiles. We are and will continue to closely follow the situation.”

Consumers were yesterday assured of the safety of eating pork and bacon. Safefood said: “We would like to reassure consumers that pork and pork products on the island of Ireland are safe to eat. Swine influenza does not pose a food safety risk, as it cannot be transmitted through food.”


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