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World swine flu pandemic "closer"

The number of people suffering from swine flu in the UK has risen to 362 as the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that a global pandemic is "getting closer".

Two are in intensive care at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Scotland, including a 45-year-old man who is not thought to be suffering from any other underlying health problems.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has confirmed 61 more individuals in England now have the disease - the most recorded in one day - with the WHO saying the virus is taking hold outside of North America.

According to the organisation's flu chief, Keiji Fukuda, the outbreak has now spread to 64 countries, infected 18,965 people and caused 117 deaths.

Says Mr Fukuda: "Phase 6 is the highest alert on WHO's scale, signalling a pandemic - a global epidemic. In terms of the geographic spread of swine flu, the world is at phase 5 but getting closer to phase 6."

Most of the cases are in Mexico and the US, but countries as far apart as Britain, Spain, Japan, Chile and Australia are increasingly seeing the virus spread from person to person.

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