New swine flu cases fall by 50%Officials warn "too early to claim victory"
Last week the number of new swine flu cases dropped by more than 50%, suggesting the second wave of the pandemic may have peaked.
In the past week, an estimated 22,000 people were infected with swine flu, compared with 46,000 the week before.
Sir Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer for England, singled out the "striking reduction" in the level of swine flu infection in young children. But he warned that it is still too early to say that the threat is over, with the possibility of an increase in cases after Christmas. Underlining this was the fact that the number of parents who called the UK flu hotline actually increased.
The chance of a mutation in the virus remains, he cautioned.
"We're not sitting here claiming a victory as there's still too many things to worry about," Dr Donaldson said.
This anxiety is reflected in the fact that there was an increase in the number of cases of people with swine flu being treated in intensive care, with a quarter of all cases of treatment in hospital being among children under the age of five. There are 1,000 people being treated in hospital.
The total number of deaths linked to swine flu in the UK now stands at 270.
Another complicating factor is that at this time of the year there are a number of diseases occurring which have similar symptoms to swine flu - only 1 in 10 tested for swine flu actually test positive.
The vaccination programme is proceeding, with 1.6m doses given in England. But there are over 9m in the Government's priority groups, so doubts remain that this can be completed by Christmas.
This article was published on Fri 4 December 2009
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