Posted on December 31st, 2010 No comments
The number of people in intensive care with confirmed or suspected flu in England has risen to 738.
Statistics released by the Department of Health (DH) last Friday showed that 460 people were receiving intensive treatment for flu.
There are now 738 patients receiving the same level of care including 42 youngsters under five, the DH has revealed.
On Thursday Government advisers urged the vulnerable to be vaccinated against the virus.
The advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) came as figures revealed the winter’s growing death toll – 39 people have died from the virus since October.
The Health Protection Agency confirmed 12 more flu deaths this week and the Government announced it was relaunching the “Catch it, Bin it, Kill it” campaign, telling people to catch their sneezes and coughs and wash their hands.
The Department of Health will launch its national flu vaccination campaign on Saturday.
The move comes after Health Secretary Andrew Lansley defended the Government’s initial decision not to run the campaign earlier this week.
Labour accused Mr Lansley of a U-turn after the decision to reinstate the campaign was announced.
Posted on December 31st, 2010 No comments
The Department of Health will reveal new figures about the number of people in intensive care with flu, as Government advisers repeat advice urging the vulnerable to be vaccinated against the virus.
The advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) came on Thursday night as figures revealed the winter’s growing death toll – 39 people have died from the virus since October.
The Health Protection Agency confirmed 12 more flu deaths this week and the Government announced it was relaunching its “Catch it, Bin it, Kill it” campaign, telling people to catch their sneezes and coughs and wash their hands.
The Department of Health will launch its national flu vaccination campaign on Saturday, after Health Secretary Andrew Lansley defended the Government’s initial decision not to run the campaign. Labour accused Mr Lansley of carrying out a U-turn after the decision to reinstate the campaign was announced on Thursday.
For months the JCVI has been issuing advice that those in “at risk” groups – suffering from conditions such as chronic respiratory, heart, kidney or liver disease – should get the jab. Critics complained that a wider vaccination policy was not implemented but the JCVI stood by its advice.
Professor Andrew Hall said of the deaths: “JCVI noted that a large proportion of those individuals with severe disease are in recognised risk groups for influenza but unfortunately were not vaccinated. It strongly reiterated its previous advice that all individuals in risk groups should be vaccinated as soon as possible, particularly those aged less than 65 years.”
The committee also said it did not believe healthy children under five should be given the flu vaccine.
Prof Hall added: “The committee considered the issue of offering vaccination to healthy children either 0-4 years and/or 5-15 years of age. However, although there is a high incidence of influenza-like illness currently in these age groups, a significant proportion of this is due to other viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
“In addition, only a very small proportion of those with severe disease are in these age groups. Based on previous seasonal influenza epidemiology, it would be hoped that influenza circulation will have subsided within a month. We do not believe that seasonal or pandemic vaccine should be used for these or other healthy person groups. The greatest gain will be achieved in increasing vaccine uptake in the clinical risk groups.”
Of the 39 deaths, 36 had swine flu and three had another strain, flu type B. All except one case were under 65 and four were under the age of five.
Posted on December 30th, 2010 No comments
Twelve more people have died from confirmed flu in the past week, taking the death toll to 39, according to the latest UK figures.
Data from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) shows 39 people have died with flu since October, including 36 with swine flu and three with another strain, flu type B.
All except one case were under 65 years of age and four were under the age of five.
The latest figures come after it was announced on Wednesday that cases of flu rose by more than 40% last week.
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) reported that incidences of flu in England and Wales reached 124 per 100,000 of the population in the week ending December 26.
There were 86 per 100,000 cases in the previous week.
There has been a general increase across all age ranges apart from children, with the middle-aged being particularly badly hit.
Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA, said: “We are seeing a large amount of flu circulating across the country and would urge those people in an at-risk group to have their seasonal flu vaccine as soon as possible as this is the best way to protect themselves from flu this winter.
“Anyone who has symptoms of flu-like illness should get medical advice as soon as possible and their GP will prescribe antivirals to reduce their symptoms and lessen the risk of them developing complications.
“Although there were reports of many people during the pandemic only experiencing mild disease we can’t stress enough that flu can be an extremely serious illness for people in ‘at risk’ groups, including pregnant women, the elderly and those with other underlying conditions such as heart problems, diabetes, lung, liver or renal diseases and those who have weakened immune systems.”
Posted on December 30th, 2010 No comments
Health officials say 13 patients with confirmed swine flu have been treated at Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill in Cottingham in the past two weeks.
Of these, three patients – all under the age of 50 – have died, including Natalie Hill, 17, of north Hull, as previously reported.
Now, NHS bodies are urging the public to play their part in defeating the virus.
Sue Lee, spokeswoman for NHS Hull, the city’s primary care trust, said: “We are desperately appealing for people with flu-like symptoms to stay away from A&E and even their GP surgeries, unless it is absolutely necessary.
“The last thing we want is people spreading this virus, through waiting rooms, to patients with other health conditions.
“So we are asking people to self-isolate and ring, if necessary, their GP surgeries, who will know about individuals’ medical histories, for advice.”
But Ms Lee said in most instances the first port of call should be local pharmacies.
In many cases, the virus can be “sweated out” through taking paracetamol and drinking plenty of water.
She said: “Yes, if you have swine flu you are going to feel awful. But if you are fit and healthy you will eventually sweat it out.”
Ms Lee said the city’s GP out-of-hours service had seen a 25 per cent increase in calls compared with last Christmas.
She said: “Now GP surgeries are open again after the four-day bank holiday period we are concerned people will call in and spread the virus. This will make the situation worse.”
Mail readers have posted messages on our website stating they have been experiencing problems obtaining Tamiflu.
Ms Lee said: “Unless you have underlying medical problems, for example heart disease or asthma, you won’t need Tamiflu.
“It is a common misconception that Tamiflu cures swine flu. It only lessens the symptoms.”
Ms Lee said it is important people do not panic.
“We were expecting this,” she said. “Last year there was the flu pandemic. “We know the flu virus mutates. This year the predominant strain of flu is H1N1 – swine flu. This year swine flu is seasonal flu.
“The symptoms of swine flu are the same as ‘normal’ flu. The medication is the same too.”
The hospital trust is also appealing for flu patients to stay away.
A spokesman said: “The A&E department is for emergencies only. “What we don’t want is a waiting room full of flu patients.
“Most people will be self-treating through buying medicine at pharmacies. If problems persist, they should contact their GP.”
Meanwhile, the region’s only natural birth facility, the Jubilee Birth Centre at Castle Hill in Cottingham, remains closed.
This is because staff have been re-deployed to Hull and East Yorkshire Women and Children’s Hospital at Hull Royal Infirmary.
Posted on December 29th, 2010 No comments
SWINE flu today closed a Merseyside hospital to visitors as health bosses moved to stop the virus spreading.
Arrowe Park hospital turned families and friends away after it announced that the Wirral hospital had stopped visiting hours in a bid to protect vulnerable patients.
Health chiefs are meeting daily to discuss how best to handle the situation and a decision to keep running clinics at the hospital tomorrow is also being reviewed.
Tina Long, Director of Nursing and Midwifery at the Hospital said: “We are asking visitors to please bear with us at this time and not to come to the Hospital to visit friends or family members unless they are very seriously ill.
“This temporary suspension of visiting will help us to concentrate on looking after those patients who need to be in Hospital. We will of course lift this restriction as soon as we can.”
She added: “On behalf of the Trust, I apologise for any inconvenience that these temporary measures may cause to visitors and patients but we will lift the restriction as soon as possible.”
Other hospitals in Merseyside said their visiting hours remained unchanged, despite the seasonal rise in flu cases.
Nightwear and gifts for Arrowe Park patients can be left at the hospital’s main reception.
Posted on December 29th, 2010 No comments
A woman suffering from swine flu has died in the West Midlands as hospitals battled rising cases of the disease, it emerged today.
The victim was in her 70s and had been a patient at New Cross Hospital in Wol-verhampton for over a week when she passed away in Intensive Care on Monday.
The unnamed woman was showing symptoms of the disease on her admission last week and tests later confirmed that she was a sufferer.
But she had other underlying medical conditions that could have caused or contributed to her death.
The woman who died, and is believed to have lived in Wolverhampton, was also showing signs of pneumonia and a potentially serious lung condition.
The hospital’s chief executive David Loughton said: “We would urge people, especially those at risk chronic lung condition, asthma, heart problems, the elderly and pregnant women, to have the flu jab as a matter of urgency.”
Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust said it was treating seven people with flu, including swine flu cases.
Posted on December 26th, 2010 No comments
Northern hemisphere countries are being told by health experts to brace themselves for flu outbreaks.
There has been a well-publicised surge of cases in the UK during December with swine flu appearing to be the dominant of the three strains circulating.
But the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control warned much of the rest of Europe was also beginning to see increases too.
Meanwhile, parts of the US and Canada have reported higher levels.
Many of those being infected are younger age groups. This is because elderly people have some immunity to swine flu, most probably because of exposure to a similar strain many years ago.
In the UK, the number of people who have died with all types of flu this winter hit 27 this week after another 10 deaths.
The volume of patients going to their doctor with flu-like illnesses also rose, more than doubling to 87.1 per 100,000 in the past week.
ChildrenCases have been highest in children aged between five and 14, followed by children under four and then those aged between 15 and 44.
But the UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) said a very large outbreak was “not likely”.
The situation has led to a rise in patients in intensive care beds and also in those using the NHS’s phone hotline, NHS Direct.
Health experts said most people with flu would be able to “self-care” by taking plenty of rest, drinking fluids and taking pain relief.
However, those with severe symptoms are being advised to consult their doctor.
Professor John Watson, an expert in respiratory disease at the HPA, said: “The level of flu activity we are currently seeing is at levels often seen during the winter flu seasons.
“Recent research conducted by the HPA has suggested that a very substantial wave of activity associated with the pandemic strain is not likely.”
In the UK at-risk groups are being urged to come forward for vaccinations. The numbers getting immunised are still too low, doctors have said.
The rates being seen elsewhere in Europe are not as high as in the UK, but the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said there was evidence that the winter flu epidemics were “starting”.
Russia and the Ukraine are thought to be the worst hit outside the UK.
Posted on December 26th, 2010 No comments
Fears of a swine flu epidemic have grown after figures revealed the number of seriously ill patients being treated in hospital for influenza has surged by 250 per cent in a week in the worst outbreak for 20 years.
Eighteen adults and nine children have died from flu this winter.
Some hospital trusts are starting to cancel operations to leave beds empty to make way for a surge in flu cases, with one leading Department of Health official warning of potential shortages in the antiviral drug Tamiflu.
The Department of Health figures reveal the extent of the worsening crisis and show that the number of critical care beds being used by flu patients has risen by more than
half in three days.
On Friday, the Government confirmed there were 460 patients with suspected or confirmed flu in hos¬pitals across England, compared with 302 on Tuesday and 182 at the end of last week.
Normally the worst cases of flu are seen in those over the age of 65. But the vast majority this year, 366, are patients aged between 16 and 64, while 43 are children, with 26 below the age of five.
It is not known how many of these cases are swine flu, but the virus is the dominant flu strain this winter and it is expected that most will have the H1N1 virus.
The Health Protection Agency has said that so far this winter, nine children and 18 adults have died of flu. However, the official figures represent a small proportion of cases being treated in hospital because data is not collected on the number of flu patients on ordinary wards.
Doctors have described the stark increase in cases as unprecedented, with some calling it the worst flu outbreak for more than two decades.
Experts have warned the situation will get worse. The country’s leading virologist, Professor John Oxford, said: ‘I wish I could be optimistic about this outbreak,
but I have an uneasy, restless feeling.
‘Swine flu is the biggest virus on the block and there are plenty of people still to infect.’
Shadow Health Secretary John Healey blamed Health Secretary Andrew Lansley for worsening the crisis by failing to advertise the seasonal flu vaccine, which offers protection against swine flu.
‘The Health Secretary made the wrong judgment, which has left many people without the flu pro¬tection they should have,’ said Mr Healey.
‘He should authorise an immediate campaign to encourage those most at risk to get the jab.’
Some intensive care wards, and particularly those for children, are already reaching full capacity.
The NHS in England has about 3,500 critical care beds and some trusts are cancelling operations to make way for a surge in flu cases.
Consultant cardiothoracic surgeon Richard Firmin, of Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital, said: ‘If the numbers in intensive care keep going up, we’ll need further capacity and we’re running very close to the edge.’
Meanwhile, the Department of Health’s chief pharmaceutical officer, Dr Keith Ridge, has warned of potential shortages in the antiviral drug Tamiflu because of the Government’s decision to allow GPs to prescribe the drug to all people with flu-like symptoms, rather than those only in at-risk groups.
In a letter to pharmacists, Dr Ridge said wholesalers were rationing supplies and urged pharmacists not to over-order.
Andrew Lansley described the rise in cases as a ‘significant increase’ but insisted the NHS was responding well to the crisis.
He said: ‘We will continue to monitor the situation and respond as necessary.’
Posted on December 25th, 2010 No comments
There are 460 people in intensive care across Britain with confirmed or suspected flu – more than twice as many people as there were a week ago.
Department of Health statistics show 182 people were receiving intensive treatment for flu on 15 December, whereas today that figure has surged to 460.
But the DoH said the new figures are in accordance with seasonal expectations.
Almost half of those who died were in an at-risk group, suffering from ailments such as diabetes, heart disease or asthma.
Commenting on the swine flu figures, Dr Alan McNally, a molecular biologist from Nottingham Trent University, said: “What you are now seeing is last year’s pandemic virus, which was referred to as swine flu, is going what it would be expected to do if you were an influenza biologist.
“It’s come back as what is now normal seasonal flu.”
But he acknowledged there was concern over the number of people in intensive care. “I think it comes down to the fact that this time last year, the uptake of the vaccine wasn’t as strong as it should have been.”
H1N1 means we’re not seeing a “normal” winter flu season
Flu kills. Flu puts people in hospital. Every winter. Superficially, this year is no different, writes Channel 4 News Science Correspondent Julian Rush.
But look behind the numbers and there’s a story.
The timing and the numbers for this winter’s recent rise in flu cases is, on the face of it, nothing out of the ordinary.
But because the main strain that’s going around is H1N1 – “swine flu” – we’re not seeing a “normal” winter flu season.
To some extent, H1N1 is behaving like a traditional seasonal flu, but it remains a relatively new strain. That means the people who fall ill aren’t the traditional flu victims – the very old, the very young, the very weak.
As we discovered when H1N1 first visited these shores in the summer of 2009, it finds its victims among the young who have no immunity. Most, because they’re fit and healthy, suffer relatively mild illness.
So there’s an unusual bulge in the numbers. As of 23 December, 460 people were in critical care beds in England. 366 were in the 16-64 age group.
That can be explained, in part, because that age group makes up the biggest proportion of the population.
But they’re also the largest group of people who aren’t normally vaccinated (this winter’s seasonal flu vaccine includes H1N1).
Within this group of 16 to 64-year-olds is a sub-group of people at risk – people with immune problems, asthma, kidney disease etc. And that sub-group is not small: it includes – for the first time – pregnant women, who are three to four times at greater risk of severe illness.
The vaccination take-up rate among this at-risk sub-group is only 43 per cent, and that’s causing concern among health officials because they know they’re the people who are most likely to get ill this winter and there’s a lot of them.
Posted on December 24th, 2010 No comments
Flu activity is on the rise in Britain, where it has killed 27 people since October, say health officials tracking increases across Europe.
Britain has experienced a surge in cases during December as swine flu appears to be the dominant flu strain circulating.
Britain’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) said 24 people died with the H1N1 strain and three with a type B flu strain, including 10 deaths this week.
“The level of flu activity we are currently seeing is at levels often seen during the winter flu seasons, but due to the fact that H1N1 is one of the predominant strains circulating at the moment, we are seeing more severe illness in people under the age of 65 than we would normally expect,” said Prof. John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA.
The U.K. agency noted a very large outbreak was “not likely.”
Cases have been highest among children aged five and 14, followed by children under four.
“We have seen some flu outbreaks in school-aged children as well as serious cases in pregnant women. We are working throughout the public health system and [National Health Service] to protect and treat people at risk of serious illness,” the interim chief medical officer for England, Prof. Sally Davies, said in a release.
Visits to doctors for flu-like illness also rose, more than doubling to 87.1 per 100,000 in the past week in the U.K. from 34.6 per 100,000, a rate that exceeds baseline levels.
More flu activity in Europe
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said influenza transmission is now picking up across the European Union.
“During the influenza season — and especially while influenza cases are occurring in your community — citizens should adopt preventative measures recommended by their national authorities; these may include: personal hygiene measures and vaccination for those recommended,” ECDC director Marc Sprenger said in a statement.
In Canada, this year’s vaccine covers three flu strains: a new one known as H3N2, an influenza B component and H1N1.
Canada’s flu season
Last week’s influenza update from the World Health Organization also reported increased influenza activity across parts of Europe, “indicating the start of wintertime influenza epidemics in several countries.
“Influenza activity is also increasing in other temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, including East Asia and North America where there is evidence of the beginnings of the local winter influenza season.”
In Canada, flu illness “has been geographically variable, but overall within seasonal baseline levels,” WHO said.
Both the number of influenza virus detections and the proportion of respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza viruses, predominantly Influenza A(H3N2), have increased substantially in Canada, the UN health agency said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada’s latest FluWatch report, posted Dec. 17, said overall flu activity in Canada increased from the previous week, particularly across the Prairies, Ontario and Quebec.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said flu activity was increasing for the week ended Dec. 18 in the country. Influenza-like illness remained relatively low nationally, but is up from the previous week.