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Sweden prepares for swine flu pandemic

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10:32 CEST+02:00
Sweden is preparing for the onset of a swine flu pandemic after the WHO raised the warning level to phase five. Although no cases have yet been confirmed in Sweden the government has moved to secure vaccines.

The announcement by the WHO means that the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) will go through its pandemic planning and ensure that everything works efficiently.

"It also means that we have overarching coordination and information work to conduct with other organs of society, partly healthcare services and the Institute for Infectious Disease Control (Smittskyddsinstitutet, SMI), and partly to ensure that other operations which have to continue functioning in the event of a pandemic, do so," said Anders Tegnell at the board to news agency TT.

Tegnell confirmed that existing vaccine contracts stipulate that manufacture will commence without delay if the WHO declares a pandemic.

But manufacturers and countries ordering the vaccines can negotiate to bring forward manufacture.

"This type of discussion is already under way, but will no doubt intensify if this becomes a reality," Tegnell said.

Strategies for how the medicines can be distributed across the country are also under review.

"The firms that are contracted to keep the stocks, divide them up and transport them need also to be informed that this could become serious within a relatively short space of time," said Anders Tegnell.

SMI is continuing its work as normal.

"We are already working according to our plans for phase five with monitoring and diagnosis. We can not really do any more than we are currently doing. As it has been going on for such a long time in Mexico and has spread as far as it has we realized that this was something that would be tough to arrest," said Annika Linde at SMI.

No cases of the influenza have yet been confirmed in Sweden. SMI receives new samples continually, up to 20 in the last day.

It is unknown how many Swedes have been in Mexico or the United States during the time that the contagious infection has been spreading undiscovered, but according to Johan Carlson at the welfare board, it could number several thousand.

No one yet knows how dangerous the new H1N1 virus is in terms of contagion or mortality, but the fact that deaths have been confirmed among the younger generations is cause for concern.

"We are concerned that it will affect the younger population," said Annika Linde.

Maria Larsson, Sweden's public health minister, has confirmed that the government is now meeting daily at state secretary level to discuss the issue.

"We have now mobilized an organisation and take this very seriously," Maria Larsson said at a press conference at the government offices.

Larsson assured that Sweden would be prepared for when the first case is confirmed.

"We have prepared the organization for just that. We have a good monitoring system, there is access to medicines and we have guarantees to secure medicines, when there is medicine available."

"Our operative authorities and the healthcare system know exactly how to manage confirmed cases."

Maria Larsson confirmed that Sweden has contracts with one of the largest manufacturers of flu vaccines and she is satisfied that this is the best way to ensure supplies for the Swedish people.

The guarantees cover a total of 18 million doses.

The EU's health ministers will gather for an extraordinary meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday.

"It is important, in the first instance, to follow the recommendations of the WHO. The WHO has the international perspective and is the most important guide and advisor in this," Maria Larsson concluded.

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