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Leading doctor issues swine flu warning

A leading Irish doctor has warned against taking a cavalier attitude towards swine flu.

A decision was recently made in Britain to shut down a swine flu hotline seven months after it was launched, after a steady fall in the number of cases reported there.

The virus has been circulating around the world since April last year.

Dr Graham Fry, the Medical Director of the Tropical Medical Bureau (TMB), said the initial panic had been replaced by a rather more "cavalier attitude" for many where the illness is seen more as an inconvenience and not a real threat.

"However this is not always the case, as many can testify following the death of a family member or the onset of a very severe and miserable prolonged bout of illness," he said.

He said that at this point in time, many travellers are asking is it worth having the swine flu vaccine for their journey overseas.

"There is no perfect answer, but perhaps what should be emphasised is the need to have cover against both this and also the seasonal influenza due to long periods of time these travellers will be on board aeroplanes and also stuck in transit lounges and breathing recycled air," he said.

He added that, encouragingly, it appears that the next influenza vaccine, usually available in September in the northern hemisphere, could contain the H1N1 strains as well as the more normal seasonal variety.

He said that this should help increase the uptake of protection against these serious diseases. He said however that the linking of the two vaccines is not confirmed at this point.

Meanwhile, children under five have been the main victims of a measles outbreak sweeping the country.

There has been a 43-fold increase in the number of recorded cases in the first six weeks of this year, when compared with last year.

So far this year, 173 cases have been reported, compared with just four in the same period in 2009.

fdillon@herald.ie


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