Second UK person-to-person flu case confirmed

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The Independent Online

UK health chiefs were waiting for the results of hundreds of tests for swine flu today as the tally of confirmed cases hit 13, including two people who had not travelled to Mexico.

Barry Greatorex, 42, from Chipping Sodbury, south Gloucestershire, is the second person to have contracted the virus person-to-person in the UK. He was been quarantined to his home but is said to be doing well.

Yesterday the Department of Health announced four new cases in the south- west, south-east, north-east and Scotland. More than 600 people are now being tested for the disease.

Sir Liam Donaldson, chief medical advisor, said last night: "The first non-imported cases of swine flu have been confirmed in England and Scotland. The infection appears to have been acquired by person-to-person spread within the United Kingdom. Until now cases were confined to people who had themselves recently come back from Mexico."

Graeme Pacitti, 24, from Polmont, near Falkirk, yesterday became the first person in the UK to test positive for the virus without travelling to Mexico.

He contracted the disease after coming into contact with Iain Askham, who fell ill after his honeymoon in the Latin American country.

Later the Health Protection Agency announced that a 42-year-old man from south Gloucestershire with no history of travel to the country had fallen ill.

He is not thought to have had any contact with a 12-year-old pupil at Downend School in south Gloucestershire who was on the same flight at the Askhams and also has the disease.

South West regional director of public health Dr Gabriel Scally said of the 42-year-old: "There is no direct contact with Mexico and we are not sure how he acquired the virus. His symptoms are mild and he has been given Tamiflu and he's doing well.

"It would be better if we did not have person-to-person transmission, but we have had a few positive people now and they lead normal lives.

"We are trying our best to interrupt the transmission by asking people to avoid widespread contact and by giving them the correct medication."

Cases have now been confirmed in Newcastle, Scotland, Merseyside, Devon, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and London. All those in the UK who have contracted the disease appear to be suffering mild symptoms.

In Wales, 16 possible cases of swine flu have been ruled out and another 20 patients, all with mild symptoms and travel links to Mexico or the US, are being investigated, the Welsh Assembly Government said.

Sir Liam said: "As the WHO (World Health Organisation) has already said, it considers a pandemic to be imminent. We must all continue to be vigilant and try to reduce the spread of the virus.

"People have their part to play in controlling the spread of influenza. I would like to stress again that it is important for us all to practice good respiratory and hand hygiene. Always use a tissue to catch your sneezes, throw away used tissues where germs can linger and regularly wash your hands, or clean them with a sanitising gel.

"The UK has been preparing for the possibility of a pandemic for a number of years and is among the most prepared countries in the world. The NHS is ready to deal with a pandemic. Our plans are robust and advanced."

Mr Pacitti, who works as a clerical assistant for the NHS, said he was "gutted" and "disappointed" on hearing that he tested positive.

He met Mr Askham last Thursday and began to show symptoms on Saturday.

Yesterday the WHO raised the alert level to phase five of six, meaning a global outbreak is imminent.

There have been 397 deaths in Mexico, with 16 confirmed as due to the virus.

The other countries affected are the United States, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, Germany, Spain, Israel, Austria, Holland and Switzerland.

Last night France confirmed its first two cases - a 49-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman - who had both recently returned from Mexico.

Tests in South Korea confirmed a 51-year-old woman has the disease after recently returning from a trip to Mexico, according to news reports there this morning.