Doctors are being warned to prepare for a second, "much worse" wave of swine flu hitting Britain in the autumn, the Health Secretary has disclosed.
By John Bingham and Auslan Cramb
Last Updated: 9:22AM BST 04 May 2009
Alan Johnson said the current swine flu outbreak could be followed by 'something much more serious' Photo: (PA: Stefan Rousseau)
Alan Johnson said that the lesson of past pandemics was that initially mild outbreaks had been followed by something "much more serious".
His comments came as the number of confirmed cases of swine flu in Britain rose to 18, including two children, with as many as 716 possible patients now being tested.
Two Australians diagnosed in the UK
Meanwhile the Health Protection Agency confirmed that a Mexican pilot was one of the 18 cases in Britain. He has since left the country.
An independent school in London has been closed after a 14-year-old girl contracted the virus from a traveller who had recently returned from Mexico, in the third known case of person-to-person transmission inside the UK.
Jenny Stephen, headmistress of South Hampstead High School, wrote to parents to announce that it would be closed until at least Thursday, cancelling the leavers' ball, after a Year Nine pupil became infected.
An 11-year-old girl from Wandsworth, south London, also tested positive after a trip to America although her school did not need to close as she did not attend classes while showing symptoms.
Meanwhile passengers who travelled on a domestic British flight with a man from Ayrshire who was infected in the United States have been urged to contact the NHS.
The man, the fourth confirmed case in Scotland after the honeymoon couple Iain and Dawn Askham and their friend Graeme Pacitti, took a Flybe flight from Birmingham to Glasgow last Thursday on his return from Texas.
At least two Australians are in quarantine in London after being diagnosed with the swine flu virus after returning to Britain from separate holidays in Mexico last week.
Mark Robertson, 23, a marketing manager from Sydney has been ordered to stay in his flat in Islington, north London, for the next four days. He contracted the virus on a Mexican beach holiday at the end of a four-month trip to Central and South America.
His flatmates, one Australian and one Brit, have also been told to stay indoors.
A 29-year-old builder from Sydney has also been told to stay home after being confirmed as having the H1N1 virus after attending a wedding in Mexico.
A third Australian, Kate Corbett, a journalist, is awaiting test results after returning to London from the same wedding.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) last week issued a "level five" alert for the virus, meaning that a full pandemic is "imminent".
But in Mexico, the epicentre of the global outbreak, the health minister, Jose Angel Cordova, said that the disease now appeared to be in its "declining phase" in the country where there have been more than 500 confirmed cases. Despite the growing number of cases in the UK, Mr Johnson claimed that the outbreak appeared to be "contained".
But he warned that there was "absolutely no doubt" that there would be more new cases.
He said that previous pandemics had been characterised by a "second phase"
"This is a new virus, it has never been seen before," he told the BBC.
"People talk about Sars and bird flu, and that was never the subject of a WHO alert, and we are now at stage five of an alert.
"Our evidence from all previous pandemics is you get two phases. So you get a first wave which is often very mild and then you get a much more serious wave that comes along in the autumn and the winter.
"So we have to not just deal with this outbreak now but prepare perhaps for a second phase further down the line."
Urging people to "have a good bank holiday" he added: "So far – because we've managed to get to people to isolate it, we've got the stock of antivirals for them and their families and the people they have met – I think it is contained.
"There will be more cases ... there's absolutely no doubt of that, but at the moment all the evidence is we can confine it, contain it and treat it effectively."
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