Healthy living

Another jump in new swine flu cases

Zone default image School age children hardest hit

There has been another sharp rise in new swine flu cases, latest figures show.

Last week, an estimated 78,000 people caught swine flu, compared with 53,000 in the previous week. School-aged children and young people continue to be hardest hit by the virus. Swine flu influenza outbreaks have been reported in at least 44 schools in England and 12 in Northern Ireland.

Influenza infection rates remain above the winter threshold levels set for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The latest weekly figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show the number people visiting their doctor with flu-like illness increased from 39.1 to 42.8 consultations per 100,000 people in England.

Although the increase in GP consultation rates was seen in all age groups, the biggest rises continue to occur in the 5 to 14 age group, followed by 1 to 4 year olds.

The number of people in hospital as a result of swine flu also rose to 751, compared with 506 the week before, with 157 patients in intensive care.

Worryingly for the NHS, around 1 in 5 hospitalised flu patients are in intensive care, the highest rates since the influenza pandemic began in April. Children under the age of 4 are most likely to be hospitalised due to the virus.

Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer for England, said: "We are seeing a level of serious activity in hospitals which has easily surpassed the level we first saw in July."

He added: "A pattern is really emerging which has an eerie similarity to what happened in Australia in their flu season."

Since the pandemic began, 137 deaths have been linked to the virus: 97 in England, 23 in Scotland, 8 in Northern Ireland and 7 in Wales.

To date, the HPA estimates 521,000 people have been infected with swine flu in the UK. Most disease caused by the virus has been mild, but can be severe in a minority of cases.

Only three out of 2050 H1N1 viruse samples tested by the HPA have been shown to be resistant to the anti-viral drug Tamiflu.

This article was published on Fri 30 October 2009

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

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