An NHS stockpile of more than £500 million worth of anti-viral drugs is on hand to deal with any possible outbreak of swine flu, it has been announced.
Health secretary Alan Johnson said that Tamiflu has proved effective on patients in Mexico, where the disease has killed 80 people so far, and scientists are now working on developing a vaccine against the new strain.
Government officials have met for emergency discussions aimed at preventing the spread of the new human strain of a virus usually associated with pigs.
Cases of the disease have been reported in countries including the US, Spain and New Zealand, while tests are continuing on two people admitted to hospital in Scotland with “flu-like symptoms” after returning from Mexico.
The Department of Health says it has stepped up surveillance arrangements, adding that the UK has enough antiviral stocks to provide treatment for 50% of the population should they become ill.
“We put plans in place earlier this year to increase supplies of flu drugs, making the UK one of the most prepared countries in the world,” a spokesman said.
“Agreements made with Roche and GlaxoSmithKline earlier this year doubled our antiviral stockpiles. The contracts brought our total capacity to 33.5 million treatment courses.”
Copyright Press Association 2009