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The stockpiling of protective equipment such as face masks to prevent transmission of bird flu in the event of a pandemic may be needed in Britain, according to shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley.

Mr Lansley was speaking after a panel of leading British experts, from the Royal Society and Academy of Medical Science, told the government that its current vaccine plans were inadequate.

They criticised the fact that only one drug, Tamiflu, has been stockpiled and recommended that a second, Relenza, be added.

While Tamiflu has been shown to have some effect on the virus, some strains have also shown resistance to it.

Mr Lansley said 'If you believe, as I do, that there's a major risk of a pandemic flu on the scale of the 1918 pandemic of Spanish flu, we should think about stockpiling more antiviral drugs, stockpiling face-masks.'

Health chiefs and scientists fear that a mutant form of the H5N1 virus may emerge that can spread from human to human, creating a pandemic.

track© Adfero Ltd

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