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  • Call for clarity on swine flu death figures

    Posted on January 11th, 2011 admin No comments
    THE chair of the Stormont health committee Jim Wells has called on the Public Health Agency (PHA) to come clean on the number of people who have died from swine flu this year with no underlying health issues.
    The PHA has confirmed the deaths since November 1 of 14 people who had the swine flu virus – and that 10 of them had suffered from underlying health problems.

    However, it has still to confirm whether the remaining four people had any other medical conditions.

    If they were completely healthy, Mr Wells said he fears this could mean that the virus has changed since last year and could pose quite a different threat.

    “They were treating these 14 people in intensive care and did not have records of all their existing conditions?” he asked.

    “They must have the records. I can’t believe they do not know whether these other four people had underlying conditions.”

    He understood that one of the 14 who died was a 52-year-old lorry driver whose family believe had no underlying health problems.

    “Now the age group 25-44 seems to be the group most affected, people with no previous respiratory issues – and if this is so, the public must be told,” the MLA said.

    “Last year, all 19 people who died had underlying health issues and this was revealed from the time the first person died; the public had full confidence in the PHA reporting.”

    But this year we are not getting clear answers, he said.

    “What we do know is that Dr Carolyn Harper of the PHA confirmed on Friday that 40 to 50 per cent of those in intensive care with swine flu have no underlying issues.”

    He argued this could equate to four out of the 14 deaths being otherwise healthy people.

    However, on Sunday the PHA released a statement to say that the current pattern of swine flu in Northern Ireland is the same as last year.

    Dr Carolyn Harper, director of public health for Northern Ireland, said: “To allay any public concerns about swine flu here, I can confirm that there is no difference in the current pattern of swine flu in Northern Ireland compared with the rest of the UK. There is also no evidence that swine flu is affecting healthy young people any differently than it did during the pandemic, and therefore, no evidence to support a change to the current vaccination policy.”

    She encouraged at-risk people to get vaccination – pregnant women, those with underlying medical conditions and those aged 65 and over.
    Meanwhile, the chief executive of the Health and Social Care Board has revealed that more than a quarter of critical care patients are currently being treated for swine flu.

    Speaking last night, John Compton said: “The position today is that 27 out of 80 adult critical care patients and four out of nine paediatric critical care patients are being treated for swine flu.

    “Of all patients being treated in hospital in Northern Ireland today, approximately four per cent have been confirmed with swine flu or are suspected as having it. For example, in the Belfast Trust, there are 59 such cases out of a total of 1,453 patients. This is not unusual at this time of year when flu is most prevalent.”

    Mr Compton said some surgeries had been postponed to allow Trusts to deal with the swine flu influx.

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