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Published on 19 May 2009

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Flu pandemic “flexibility” sought

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Public health may be put at risk if flu pandemic procedures are not made more flexible, UK Health Secretary Alan Johnson has warned.

At present, the World Health Organization (WHO) swine-flu alert is at level five, which is one below the maximum six.

The latter would trigger a full-scale pandemic warning around the world, and would prompt drug firms to switch from making the usual seasonal flu vaccine to one targeted at swine flu.

There are concerns that people might suffer more if the normal seasonal flu jab was not available, particularly if swine flu continues to be relatively benign.

Mr Johnson told the WHO assembly in Geneva that it might be useful to take into account emerging knowledge about the severity of swine flu, a suggestion supported by Japan, China, Oman, Nigeria, New Zealand and Egypt.

He said that so far the public seem reassured that the current outbreak is being dealt with effectively. But if the world were to move to phase six on “a purely mechanistic basis”, this would confuse people and potentially cause a loss of confidence.

Copyright Press Association 2009


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