British government takes stock of drugs to fight swine flu

London, April 27 (Inditop) British health authorities said Monday they have enough stockpiles of medicines to counter a swine flu outbreak as specialists said it was only a matter of time before the virus found its way to Britain.

Reacting swiftly, health officials said Britain’s state-funded National Health Service (NHS) was well stocked with 500 million pounds worth of Tamiflu, the antiviral drug that has proved effective against the rare form of swine flu in Mexico.

Virologists in Britain agreed that in the worst-case scenario, an outbreak of the virus could lead to as many as 120 million deaths worldwide but said it is far too early to predict the scale of the problem.

Air passengers returning to Britain from Mexico City are being delayed on board in order to allow health officials to conduct medical checks.

Health Minister Alan Johnson promised that travellers coming to Britain with flu-like symptoms would be examined “very, very quickly” by the NHS, which gives free treatment to children, pensioners and those unable to pay and charges a fixed amount to all others.

Two travellers have been admitted to a hospital in Scotland after complaining of flu-like symptoms after returning from a holiday in the country.

Johnson said Britain was on “constant alert” after the previously unknown influenza spread from Mexico to America and cases were reported as far afield as New Zealand, France, Spain, Israel and Canada.

More than 80 Mexicans are believed to have died from pneumonia and respiratory illness linked to the virus. At least 20 cases have been confirmed as swine flu, also known as H1N1.

In America, the government has declared a state of public health emergency after confirming 20 cases of swine flu across five states.

In addition, six cases have been confirmed in Canada.

Of cases that have been reported but not confirmed, 10 are in New Zealand, four in France, seven in Spain, one in Israel and two in Britain.