A six year old Oxfordshire schoolgirl has been diagnosed with swine flu.
The girl, a pupil at Sandhills primary school, East Oxford, allegedly caught the disease while holidaying in Mexico. She is reported to have attended school for only one day before falling ill. The school was closed for several days as a precautionary measure. However, health officials have urged the public not to panic.
Dr Noel McCarthy, of Thames Valley Health Protection Unit, told the BBC the case had been “contained”, and it is reported that the girl has made a full recovery.
McCarthy praised her family’s “quick and sensible response”, and reassured the public that the girl’s family and everyone else who had been in contact with her had been approached and offered treatment to prevent possible infection.
“The child was in no way ill when she was at school or around that time so there is no risk to anybody at the school,” he added.
“Having said this, the county council and the head of the school are, and will be continuing to contact those in the school to give clear information but mainly to reassure people rather than to say that they need to do anything special.”
Some students, however, have voiced concern. “I know the best thing to do is to keep a stiff upper lip, but its hard not to be worried when a disease which spreads so fast and can kill so quickly comes so close to Oxford,” said one Oriel first-year.
Others disagreed. One New College postgraduate said “the overreaction to swine flu is actually dangerous. It’ll be like the boy who cried wolf – people won’t be as worried as they should be when a really deadly pandemic comes along”.
Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East, said: “The most important thing here is that the little girl concerned is recovering well, which is great news. We must also thank the health professionals for what by all accounts is good handling of the situation.” He also praised the local media for what he called a “balanced and responsible” response to the situation.
No further cases of the infection have been reported in Oxfordshire.
Elsewhere, pupils at South Hampstead High School, North London, and Alleyn’s School, Dulwich, saw school cancelled for several days after pupils at both schools, both of whom who had also been on holiday in Mexico, contracted the illness. There have been thirty-two confirmed cases of Swine Flu in the UK, but no deaths have been reported. Cases have been reported in nineteen countries, and some British tourists remain in quarantine abroad, most notably in Hong Kong.
Oxford University is currently in the ‘Amber 2 Pandemic Phase’, which, according to the university website, is proportionate to large clusters of human-to-human spread and a substantial pandemic risk. The World Health Organisation pandemic phase is phase 5, one stage before an actual pandemic. The university formed a committee at the end of last week in response to Swine Flu.
Dr Ian Brown, Director of Occupational Health at the University, issued a statement to members of the University on May 1st .
“All staff or students who have returned from Mexico within the last seven days should inform the Occupational Health Department of the University on their return even if they are well,” it read.
“The University of Oxford has comprehensive and detailed plans in place for this contingency: the University’s pandemic flu planning document is available on this website and further guidance has been issued to Colleges and departments.”
On Wednesday, Roger Harrabin, Environmental analyst at the BBC, urged the ‘need for perspective’ on Swine Flu. He compared it to the huge scares during the BSE, SARS and Avian Flu crises, when in each case it was reported that hundreds of thousands could die. In fact, total deaths worldwide from the three ‘pandemics’ combined came to just over one thousand.
Simon Jenkins was another journalist who urged the need for a proportionate response, and slammed virologist John Oxford for referring to a Swine Flu ‘Armageddon’.
Recent reports suggest the virus is past its peak, but England’s chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, warned against complacency because flu viruses could change character “very rapidly”.