LEAFLETS about the deadly swine flu virus are to be distributed to all households across the UK as fears grow about the scale of the outbreak.
The Department of Health (DH) last night confirmed it would be issuing the leaflets next week containing information about the virus and "preventative messages".
The DH also said it was in talks to "urgently increase current stockpiles" of surgical face masks.
The extra masks would be used by health professionals such as nurses and doctors working with infected patients in the event of a pandemic.
Health officials are bracing themselves for the emergence of more suspected cases of the virus.
The first two British cases were confirmed on Monday with further possible cases emerging yesterday.
Four in 10 Britons could catch the virus within the next six months, leading health officials have said.
Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) taskforce which raised the alert over the outbreak to level four, said 40% of people in the UK could be infected if the country was hit by a pandemic.
But Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Britain was "among the best prepared countries in the world" and added that the Government was taking "all the urgent action that is necessary" to help prevent the spread of the virus.
The Government’s Cobra emergencies committee, involving both Mr Brown and Health Secretary Alan Johnson, met to discuss the issue as Britons were warned to avoid all but essential travel to Mexico.
The WHO have said the deadly swine flu virus could no longer be contained and raised its alert to just two steps lower than the maximum of six, signifying a "significant increase in risk of a pandemic".
The information leaflets on the virus will be delivered across the UK in the coming days.
A DH spokeswoman said: "The leaflet will be sent out next week, cover the whole of the UK, and will contain information about this flu outbreak and preventative messages."
She added: "We are talking to a number of manufacturers about procuring face masks. We are not in a position to provide further details at this stage.
"Although we are aware that face masks are being given out to the public in Mexico, the available scientific evidence does not support the general wearing of face masks by those who are not ill whilst going about their normal activities.
"We are urgently looking into how we can increase our current stockpiles of face masks for healthcare workers who would come into close contact with symptomatic individuals during an influenza pandemic."
The two confirmed patients, Iain and Dawn Askham, of Polmont, near Falkirk, had been on honeymoon in Mexico and were being treated today in isolation at Monklands Hospital in Airdrie, Lanarkshire.
Their parents said the newlywed couple was "shocked" at the positive test results.
Yesterday Thomas Cook cancelled all Thomas Cook and Airtours holidays to Cancun for the next seven days and Thomson Holidays’ parent company TUI said it would not be operating any more flights to Mexico until the Foreign Office travel advice changed.
Shares in holiday companies also saw another day of losses as fears over the spread of the virus kept world markets under pressure.
The European Commission warned that swine flu outbreaks were likely to get worse in Europe over the next few days, but advised the public not to panic.
Health Commissioner Androulla Vasiliou said there were still only three confirmed cases in the EU - one in Spain and two in the UK - but suspected cases in Ireland, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Greece and the Czech Republic.
So far 152 people are thought to have been killed in Mexico by the virus, which is caused when the H1N1 strain associated with pigs crosses over to the human population.
Outbreaks have also been confirmed in Scotland, the United States, Canada, Spain, New Zealand and Israel.
WHO’s assistant director-general, Keiji Fukuda, said the level four alert was "a significant step towards pandemic influenza".
Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, the Government’s chief medical adviser, said there were enough anti-virals to treat "half the population" if they became ill.
Dr Maureen Baker, the honorary secretary of the Royal College of GPs, said family doctors should reassure patients that they could expect to recover from flu within a week - even if it was swine flu.
In the US, the number of cases continued to rise, including hundreds suspected at a single New York City school. Other US cases have been reported in Ohio, Kansas, Texas and California. At least 11 cases were confirmed in New Zealand, six in Canada, two in Spain and one in Israel. None of the cases outside Mexico have been fatal.
Mexican health secretary Jose Angel Cordova said the epidemic was entering an extremely dangerous phase, with the number of people infected mushrooming even as authorities were improving defences.
Dr Alan Hay, director of the World Influenza Centre, based in London, told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme that work is progressing to develop new vaccines.
Asked if experts were now "ahead of the curve" in tackling the virus, Dr Hay said: "We did not anticipate that this virus would emerge to cause epidemics or a pandemic.
"The virus is related to viruses that have been circulating recently in pigs in the United States and although there have been some sporadic human infections by those viruses, they’ve been self-limited, they have not spread to other people.
"Although we could not have discounted this event, we were, as you know, more focusing on what H5 bird flu might cause in terms of a pandemic."