No cases have been detected in Ireland yet

NO cases of the deadly swine flu virus have been detected here yet, medical experts said last night, as the Government said all unnecessary travel to affected areas should be avoided.

Airports and ports here will feature posters warning people of the risks of swine flu if they are departing to or returning from affected countries, as of this morning.

The Department of Health’s chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, confirmed last night that none of the tests carried out on Irish people displaying flu-like symptoms having returned from Mexico and other affected areas had proved positive for swine flu.

It is known that four people had been tested and their results were due yesterday, and that another two people had subsequently been tested.

But Dr Holohan said no running tally of the number of people tested would be kept, despite the fact that up to 1,000 Irish citizens are estimated to be in Mexico or other affected areas at any one time.

Dr Holohan said a series of meetings had been held yesterday, including at regional and national level within the HSE, to ensure that the situation was being dealt with “pro-actively” after the World Health Organisation raised its influenza pandemic alert from level three to level four.

He said: “Respiratory symptoms are common, a small percentage of the population at any given point in time will experience them.

“So also is travel to some of the regions that are mentioned. We won’t keep a tally on an ongoing basis of the number of people that are being investigated at that level.”

He said the public would be notified of the results of any confirmed cases of swine flu, adding that the travel notice requesting all non-essential travel to affected areas be avoided was to bring Ireland into line with the stance of other EU countries and that of the United States.

Prof Bill Hall, chairman of the National Pandemic Influenza Group, said the virus was sensitive to drugs such as Tamiflu, of which he said Ireland had sufficient stock.

However, he said it would take between four to six months to mass produce a vaccine but a seasonal vaccine may be effective and 170,000 units of that vaccine could be made available to frontline personnel if required.

Information regarding any clusters of respiratory illness among the public and health workers here must also be passed on by GPs.

Dr Darina Flanagan, of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said the national GP Influenza Surveillance System, which normally stops in May, would continue over the coming months.

Meanwhile, Dr Kevin Kelleher, head of Health Protection in the HSE, said anyone who recently visited the affected countries and displaying symptoms should contact their GP.


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