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Virology expert “certain” UK flu pandemic will strike in autumn

1 June 2009

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The swine flu virus is gathering strength as it spreads and is likely to hit the UK as a flu pandemic in September or October, according to a leading expert.

So far, just 229 cases of swine flu have been confirmed in the UK, but Professor John Oxford, expert in virology at Queen Mary School of Medicine, University of London, says that a pandemic will take hold as autumn begins.

He said that children going back to school, universities reopening and people returning to work after the summer break would give the virus the “opportunity” it needs.

“Unfortunately I don’t think this is going to die down,” Professor Oxford said. “At the moment it’s moving fairly quietly in the community.

“Problems at the moment are fairly low, with schoolchildren and the odd sporadic case in the community. But when children go back to school in September the virus has an opportunity, and normally it takes it.

“That’s the scenario we should prepare for and that’s what we are preparing for.”

He added that a pandemic is likely to affect the UK before a vaccine becomes available, but that the vaccine – expected in October or November – would only cover about 15% of the population anyway.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry

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