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Swine flu declared an 'epidemic'

Health minister Roselyne Bachelot said swine flu had arrived in France as cases doubled within a week to 103,000

THE number of cases of swine flu has doubled over the last week – to 103,000 cases – and health minister Roselyne Bachelot says the epidemic has arrived.

Health watchdog InVS said the week of September 7-13 saw 164 cases per 100,000 inhabitants – almost double the number to declare an epidemic. Ms Bachelot had warned that the number of cases would soar after the rentrée.

Grippe A (H1N1) has so far proved benign for most people although 147 people have been hospitalised, including 19 serious cases. Five people have died.

The average age of sufferers is 20, with ages ranging from 5 months to 88 years old. Hardest hit area is Languedoc-Roussillon, followed by Limousin, Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.

Today 46 classes and 22 schools are closed because of the outbreak.

Although the vaccine will not be available until the beginning of October – and it has still not yet been approved for use – it is expected that it will arrive in time to be effective.

Ms Bachelot said the government would reveal the priority groups for vaccination in the next few days and added that the European Medicines Agency felt only one injection of the vaccine would be needed for many people instead of the expected two.

However, children will still need two injections.

France has ordered 94 million doses of the jab for its 64 million people – at a total cost of a billion euros – and is preparing for up to half of the population to fall ill in the event of an outbreak.

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