Healthy living

New swine flu cases double

Intensive care rates at all time high

The number of new swine flu cases in the UK has almost doubled in a week, according to new figures released on Thursday.

In the past week, an estimated 53,000 people were infected with the swine flu virus compared with 27,000 the week before.

GP consultation rates, based on the number of people visiting their doctor with flu-like illness, have now increased above the winter threshold levels set for England, Wales and Norrthern Ireland, but remain stable in Scotland.

School age children and young people continue to be the most affected.

Although the average overall rate for GP consultations increased to 39.1 per 100,000 people for England, the highest increase was seen in the 1-4 age group, from 35.8 to 63.7 consultations per 100,000 people. The next highest rise was seen in 5 - 14 age group.

The number of people in hospital due to swine flu increased to 506 compared with 363 the week before, with 99 in intensive care. This means that intensive care rates are now at 20% for the second week running.

Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer for England, said: “We don’t understand why this has happened. It looks as if the virus is having a different impact in the flu season than it had in the summer.”

He also said he was concerned about the pressure this would put on the NHS during the winter months.

A further 16 people in the UK died due to infection with the virus, taking the total to 122: 93 in England, 18 in Scotland, 5 in Northern Ireland and 6 in Wales.

More than half (54%) of flu related deaths have occurred in people under the age of 45. A third of those who died had few or no underlying health problems.

To date, an estimated 435,000 people have been infected with swine flu in the UK.

In a planning document published yesterday, the Department of Health said that up to 1.5 million people may fall ill in a single week when the pandemic peaks, and 35,000 people may need to be admitted to hospital. They also estimate up to 1,000 deaths due to the virus.

Although this may seem high, the two most recent flu pandemics have each resulted in the deaths of over 25,000 people in the UK.

The estimates did not take into account the effect the swine flu vaccine may have on the pandemic.

This article was published on Fri 23 October 2009

Image © CDC C. S. Goldsmith and A. Balish

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