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UK "to see flu pandemic in autumn"

A leading expert has warned that the UK is likely to be hit by a flu pandemic in September or October as the virus spreads.

Professor John Oxford, an expert in virology at Queen Mary School of Medicine, University of London, is certain that swine flu will reach pandemic proportions by the autumn, even though only 229 cases have been confirmed in the UK so far.

He said that the virus would be given the "opportunity" it needs when children go back to school, universities re-open and people return to work after the summer break.

"Unfortunately, I don't think this is going to die down," he said. "Problems at the moment are fairly low, with school children 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."

Professor Oxford added that a vaccine should become available in October or November, but that it would only cover about 15% of the population.

He said that good hygiene practices, such as using tissues and keeping away from infected people, would help but would not stop the virus altogether.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry

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