26 Apr 2009
Two people have been admitted to hospital in Scotland amid fears they may have contracted a deadly form of swine flu after returning from Mexico where the disease has claimed at least 81 lives.
By Caroline Gammell, Sarah Knapton, Philip Sherwell and Ioan Grillo in Mexico City
Last Updated: 6:00PM BST 26 Apr 2009
Their admission has reignited fears that swine flu may have arrived in the UK although there have been no confirmed reports of the virus infecting anyone in Britain.
British officials remain on high alert as scores of travellers return from the centre of the outbreak as the United States government declared a public health emergency.
The vast majority of suspected cases of H1N1 have been found in people who have recently returned to their home countries.
Ten "highly likely" cases have been reported in Auckland and swabs have been sent urgently to a World Health Organisation (WHO) laboratory in Melbourne, Australia.
There have been more than 20 cases in the United States, with officials confirming that a further eight students returning from a trip had contracted the virus.
So far all of them have been described as "mild".
A 26-year-old Israeli man was hospitalised after returning from a trip to Mexico on suspicion of contacting swine flu.
Passengers arriving back to Heathrow from Mexico, some of whom wore flu face masks, were subjected to inspections from health officials.
It comes after the WHO said the flu virus could mutate and become even more deadly.
"Yes, it's quite possible for this virus to evolve," said Keiji Fukuda, acting WHO assistant director-general for health, security and the environment.
"When viruses evolve, clearly they can become more dangerous to people."
Scottish Deputy First Minister and Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon played down the risks to public health.
She said the pair had been admitted to hospital only as a precaution after arriving back from Mexico last week.
Mrs Sturgeon confirmed they had not been in an area affected by recent outbreak.
"The patients have displayed mild flu-like symptoms and their current condition is not causing concern," she added.
A Health Protection Agency (HPA) spokesman said: "The HPA and the NHS have systems in place which will alert public health authorities of any unusual strain circulating in the UK."
A member of a British Airways cabin crew was taken to hospital with "flu-like symptoms" on Saturday after falling ill on a flight from Mexico City to Heathrow.
The man, who has not been named, has been taken to Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow, north-west London.
But a spokesman for Northwick Park Hospital said the cabin crew member did not have swine flu.