This is an update based on the latest reports on Swine 'flu. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has increased its influenza pandemic alert level to 6. This means that there is now evidence of increased and sustained human-to-human transmission of the swine flu virus across a number of global regions. It has been stressed that the WHO's decision to declare a pandemic is based on what is happening globally as a result of the geographic spread of the virus rather than the severity and does not suggest a sudden shift in the UK situation.
Within the UK we are beginning to see signs of sustained transmission of the virus within the community. There are now 806 confirmed UK cases and we can expect the numbers to increase steadily over the next few weeks and months, boosted by the onset of the autumn/winter when flu viruses spread more readily.
It is not certain how many people will be affected by the virus, but it appears that children under the age of 16 are more likely to catch it. Virtually all the cases in the UK so far have been mild. Transmission of this new virus is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu. The infection can be effectively treated with antiviral medication. The UK’s overall assessment is that so far the virus is generally mild in most people, but proving severe in a small number of cases.
The UK government is well prepared to manage a pandemic - the UK is said to be one of the best prepared countries in the world - and continues to make robust preparations based on prudent planning assumptions as it is still too early to predict accurately the impact of the pandemic in the UK. There are good stocks of anti-viral drugs for treating flu and from the autumn there will be access to a vaccine.
Through its overseas offices, VisitBritain has been monitoring the impact of UK cases in the overseas media as well as any travel advisories. Coverage has been minimal and there are no travel restrictions to the UK in place.