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Complacency warning as swine flu spread slows

The global total of swine flu cases increased dramatically yesterday - but just one new case was confirmed in Britain.

As some 1,490 cases were confirmed worldwide, public health experts were watching closely to see whether the virus would take hold in the southern hemisphere, where winter is beginning.

A cluster of six cases was reported in New Zealand but the bulk of cases remained in the north and central America.

In Mexico, the source of the infection, the total of confirmed cases reach 822, including 29 deaths.

Several European countries, including Germany, France and Italy reported several cases while the total in Spain climbed to 57.

In Britain the total of confirmed cases reached 28 with a further 333 under investigation.

British chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson warned against complacency yesterday.

He said: "We may see an apparent peak in the incidents over the next month or so, but that doesn't mean it's gone away.

"It could be that we'll see a resurgence of the virus in the autumn and winter when the normal flu season starts.

"We must not be complacent. We know that flu viruses can change their character very rapidly as they move through populations."

Meanwhile growing numbers of GPs complained of lack of support in dealing with the threat.

In some districts, including Birmingham, GPs complained of being told to buy their own face masks and protective clothing.

Dr Robert Morley, spokesman for the Local Medical Committee, told the Birmingham Post that GPs felt they were being "left in the dark".

He told the paper: "Concerns were expressed that GPs at the coal face were being asked to visit patients at home who are experiencing these flu symptoms, take swabs, prescribe antivirals and wear protective clothing, yet there was a lack of detail from Birmingham PCTs.

"Doctors in Birmingham haven’t had protective clothing of masks, gloves and gowns provided as yet and health chiefs have asked them to get their own.

"Only a few surgeries carry out minor surgery and have this sort of equipment, most don’t, and if this situation continues, then doctors won’t have significant equipment.

"GPs feel they are being left in the dark. Since the email was sent, more information has been issued.

"Most people consider their local GP as their first port of call, their most trusted service and that will put pressure on practices even if the actual confirmed cases are low."

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