Swine flu fear for hundreds of NY children

'Many hundreds' of New York children are sick with suspected swine flu, it was reported tonight.

The news was revealed by city's Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden. The city's mayor Michael Bloomberg said the children were separate from those in a suspected outbreak at a private school in Queens.

Mr Bloomberg said that two people were being treated in hospital with suspected swine flu - a child in the Bronx and an adult in Brooklyn.

The US has more than 60 reported cases of swine flu, mostly in New York City.

Meanwhile, leading health officials said today that four in 10 Britons could catch the deadly swine flu virus within the next six months.

Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) taskforce which raised the alert over the outbreak to level four, said 40 per cent of people in the UK could be infected if the country was hit by a pandemic.

But Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Britain was "among the best prepared countries in the world" and added that the Government was taking "all the urgent action that is necessary" to help prevent the spread of the virus.

The Government's Cobra emergencies committee, involving both Mr Brown and Health Secretary Alan Johnson, met to discuss the issue as Britons were warned to avoid all but essential travel to Mexico.

The WHO said the deadly swine flu virus could no longer be contained and raised its alert to just two steps lower than the maximum of six, signifying a "significant increase in risk of a pandemic".

Prof Ferguson, of Imperial College, London, said: "We might expect up to 30 per cent - 40 per cent of the population to become ill in the next six months if this truly turns into a pandemic."

The first two British cases were confirmed yesterday and more suspected infections emerged across the UK throughout today.

The two confirmed patients, Iain and Dawn Askham, of Polmont, near Falkirk, had been on honeymoon in Mexico and were being treated today in isolation at Monklands Hospital in Airdrie, Lanarkshire.

Their parents said the newlywed couple were "shocked" at the positive test results.

In a statement issued on behalf of their parents, Ian and Pauline Askham and Linda and Brian Colston, by NHS Lanarkshire, the families said: "We are delighted that they continue to make good progress and they remain in good spirits.

"They were both quite shocked that the result was positive for swine flu but are relieved that their symptoms have been very mild."

They added that it was an "incredibly difficult" time for them and they were "overwhelmed" by the attention.

Later, Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the couple's condition was continuing to improve.

"Their condition never gave cause for concern, nevertheless they do continue to recuperate and recover," she said.

Ms Sturgeon added that nine of 22 people in contact with them since returning home were showing "mild, cold-like" symptoms and were also being tested for swine flu.

As dozens of people around the UK were tested, health officials warned there would be no "minute by minute" update and that many of the suspected cases were likely to be negative.

Thomas Cook cancelled all Thomas Cook and Airtours holidays to Cancun for the next seven days and Thomson Holidays' parent company Tui said it would not be operating any more flights to Mexico until the Foreign Office travel advice changed.

Arrangements were being made to get clients home from Mexico, Thomson said.

Shares in holiday companies also saw a second day of losses as fears over the spread of the swine flu virus kept world markets under pressure.

Holiday operator TUI Travel fell more than 6 per cent, Thomas Cook slipped 5 per cent and cruise operator Carnival, which sails to mainly Caribbean destinations, also slumped nearly 6 per cent in the FTSE 100 Index.

British Airways fell 4 per cent despite the airline's announcement that it would not be cancelling any of its four weekly flights to Mexico.

And the European Commission warned that swine flu outbreaks were likely to get worse in Europe over the next few days, but advised the public not to panic.

Health Commissioner Androulla Vasiliou said there were still only three confirmed cases in the EU - one in Spain and two in the UK - but suspected cases in Ireland, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Greece and the Czech Republic.

So far 152 people are thought to have been killed in Mexico by the virus, which is caused when the H1N1 strain associated with pigs crosses over to the human population.

Outbreaks have also been confirmed in Scotland, the United States, Canada, Spain, New Zealand and Israel.

WHO's assistant director-general, Keiji Fukuda, said the level four alert was "a significant step towards pandemic influenza".

Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, the Government's chief medical adviser, said there were enough anti-virals to treat "half the population" if they became ill.

"We have been preparing for the possibility for a number of years and are among the most prepared countries in the world," he said.

Dr Maureen Baker, the honorary secretary of the Royal College of GPs, said family doctors should reassure patients that they could expect to recover from flu within a week - even if it was swine flu.

In the US, the number of cases rose to 50, including 28 at a single New York City school. Other US cases have been reported in Ohio, Kansas, Texas and California. A total of 11 cases were confirmed in New Zealand, six in Canada, two in Spain and one in Israel. None of the cases outside Mexico have been fatal.

Mexican health secretary Jose Angel Cordova said the epidemic was entering an extremely dangerous phase, with the number of people infected mushrooming even as authorities were improving defences.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

    Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

    £24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

    Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat