Swine flu spreads at London school

British couple among guests finally released from quarantine after week in Hong Kong hotel

The private Alleyn's School in Dulwich, south London, became the centre of Britain's swine flu outbreak yesterday, with the confirmation of five new cases in four children and an adult. The new cases bring to 11 the total infected at the £13,437-a-year school, more than one-quarter of the 39 cases so far identified in Britain.

The Health Protection Agency said the virus was spreading but there was not yet evidence of "sustained" human -to-human transmission which could trigger a pandemic. The outbreak at Alleyn's began last weekend after one pupil returned from a trip to the US in the Easter holidays and infected five others aged 11 and 12 in year 7. The school has been closed since Monday.

The HPA said all the patients had mild infections and were recovering at home after being given antiviral drugs. Antivirals had also been given to their close contacts and were earlier distributed to all children and staff at the school as a precaution.

In Canada, an elderly woman died from H1N1, the chief medical officer for Alberta confirmed last night, the country's first death from the disease.

In Hong Kong, a British couple were among nearly 300 guests and staff released from the Metropark Hotel after being held in quarantine for nearly a week following a feared swine-flu outbreak. Eddie and Terrie Sweeney, who had intended to spend two nights in the city on their way back from visiting their daughter in New Zealand, said earlier that they could not wait to leave, but added: "The weather is beautiful here so we are really looking forward to getting out there and enjoying it."

In the UK, scientists announced that they had produced the first "genetic fingerprint" of the swine-flu strain isolated from patients in Europe, which they suggested will help in the development of a vaccine.

The full genetic sequence of the virus will allow scientists to compare strains of the H1N1 swine-flu virus circulating in Britain with strains found in Mexico and the United States, where the outbreak is more advanced.

The HPA said scientists had sequenced 12,000 of the 14,000 "letters" of the viral genetic code and that it had begun sharing different isolates of the virus with other scientific centres involved in developing a vaccine.

The annoucement was timed to coincide with a visit by the Health Secretary Alan Johnson to the agency's National Institute for Biological Standards and Control. It suggested that sequencing the full genome is important to vaccine development, although flu vaccines in the past have been made without sequencing the virus.

Mr Johnson said the Government's objective was to produce enough vaccine to combat swine flu as well as annual seasonal flu.In July 2007, advanced supply agreements were signed to enable the UK to buy up to 132 million doses of pandemic-specific vaccine when it becomes available. The agreements are worth £154.4m over four years.

Mr Johnson said: "We have what is called sleeping contracts to get a vaccine manufactured against the outbreak of a pandemic of H1N1. We are working very hard to get this supplied. We will have enough vaccine for the whole of the population. Now, at the same time, we do not want to diminish or dilute our stocks of normal seasonal flu vaccine, so we want to do both. We think and we hope that we can do both."

The European Medicines Agency yesterday recommended that the shelf life of Tamiflu, the main antiviral drug, be extended from five years to seven years. Britain began stockpiling the drug in 2005 and its supply of 33 million packs, shortly to rise to 50 million, would have started to go out of date from next year.

The Agency said that, subject to ratification by the EU Commission, all new stocks of Tamiflu would be given a seven-year expiry date. But it added that, in the event of a pandemic being declared by the World Health Organisation, stocks already on the market could be used for up to an extra two years beyond their five-year expiry date, to help prevent shortages.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable