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UK faces one-year wait to get enough face masks for pandemicPosted on 05/02/2007

Britain is one year away from having enough face masks to protect the whole population against a bird flu pandemic, it has been reported.

While France has enough for its population and Britain has sufficient masks for workers who come into contact with birds, it would take a year to acquire the 60 million masks needed for the entire population, the Daily Record reports.

The revelation follows the confirmation of Britain's first major outbreak of H5N1 at a turkey farm in Suffolk, which has led to 160,000 birds being destroyed and quarantine measures being put in place.

Although only 160 people have died of bird flu worldwide, experts fear that a mutant strain of the infection could emerge, making it possible to contract the virus by human to human contact, possibly resulting in a pandemic.

Patricia Hewitt, the secretary of state for health, has said the government will look into the possible need to stock more face masks for NHS workers.

This comment was criticised by shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley, who said: 'It is absurd for Patricia Hewitt to say she is quickly looking into the effectiveness of face masks.'

He called for the government to make an 'effective and timely' decision and ensure Britain stockpiles masks as quickly as possible.

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