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  • Hospitals get back to normal as they call off swine flu emergency arrangements

    Posted on January 18th, 2011 admin No comments

    Hospitals across Greater Manchester have called off emergency arrangements which saw them cancel thousands of operations to cope with swine flu.

    Regional health bosses had asked hospitals to stop carrying out non-urgent surgery so they could double the intensive care capacity – to more than 200 beds.

    The emergency arrangements which were brought in to cope after lots of people became seriously ill with complications from swine flu.

    Some Greater Manchester hospitals will continue to cancel some operations until the end of this week.

    Jane Cummings, chief nurse for the North West said: “The response of clinical teams, from GPs and primary care staff, to those working in hospitals and as part of our ambulance service has been amazing.

    “This winter has been particularly tough and teams have been extremely flexible – putting in long hours, working in different areas and even different hospitals – to ensure that people who need emergency treatment get it.

    “We plan for increases in activity every winter – but without the support and understanding of NHS staff, it wouldn’t work.”

    NHS North West appealed to hospital bosses to cancel all non-urgent, non-life-threatening elective surgery, to make sure that hospitals had enough critical care beds to deal with a spike in the number of people being admitted with complications due to flu at the end of December.

    Some cardiac treatment that requires specialist critical care are still on hold as hospitals across the region support the cardiac team at Wythenshawe Hospital, in south Manchester which are running a specialist ECMO service for swine flu patients.

    Hospitals are continuing to monitor critical care admissions and will reopen extra beds if necessary.

    Ms Cummings added: “I would also like to thank the public for their support and understanding at this difficult time.

    “We will do all we can to ensure that those appointments that had to be postponed are re-scheduled as soon as possible.”

  • Swine flu mum still in coma after giving birth

    Posted on January 15th, 2011 admin No comments

    A NEW mum is fighting for her life with swine flu – after being put in a coma to save her child before the birth.

    Leanne Gunnell, 21, suffered brain damage after doctors took the decision to protect her unborn infant, which was then delivered prematurely by caesarean, weighing just 3lb.

    The mother, who was six-and-a-half months pregnant, gave birth seven weeks ago but has still not come out of the coma.

    Her parents are awaiting further tests and she might never she her child.

    The tot is doing well but the mum’s family fear she will not recover and they may have to switch off her life-support.

    Simon and Sharon Gunnell, from Robinswood, Gloucester, want to know why their daughter was not offered a swine flu jab despite being pregnant.

    Mrs Gunnell, 43, said: “She was a fit and healthy young girl. She was pregnant and she was not offered a swine flu jab – that’s the most annoying thing.”

    Her husband, 44, added: “I am not faulting the GP service but something went wrong.” At the end of November, hotel receptionist Leanne complained of being ill for several days with a cold.

    Her GP told her she had a virus and she was given antibiotics but not tested for swine flu. A few days later she was rushed to hospital, coughing up blood amid fears of pneumonia.

    Doctors at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital discovered her lungs had been so seriously damaged there was little chance of both her and the baby surviving. They said the best chance was to put her in a coma and deliver the baby at 28 weeks.

    The baby – named Faith – is doing well but after Leanne deteriorated, her parents were told she had swine flu and brain damage.

    NHS Gloucestershire said: “We’re sorry the patient concerned remains very poorly.”

    3A GRAN who had an influenza jab just weeks ago has died of swine flu.

    Eleanor Carruthers, 68, had the vaccination because she was seriously ill with emphysema and lung cancer but picked up the virus and died in Royal Liverpool Hospital.

    Health bosses stressed the jab was still the best option for the vulnerable.

  • Latest figures show 112 people have died of flu in the UK since September according to the Government.

    Posted on January 13th, 2011 admin No comments

    Of the deaths recorded, 95 have died of swine flu and another five had flu type B. A further 12 deaths have yet to have their flu type confirmed.

    The latest figures come a day after Gemma Ameen, the mother of three-year-old victim Lana, urged the Government to reassess its vaccination policy.

    “It’s heartless really. It definitely needs looking at again with another review.

    “Rather than just taking facts and figures, they need to start thinking about people’s lives.It’s not about whether they thought Lana should have been eligible. Obviously she was because she died from it.

    “I think all children should be vaccinated and anyone else who is prepared to pay for it.”

    The Department of Health stuck by its decision insisting children who do not have risk factors are in no need to be vaccinated and added that independent expert advice was “absolutely clear”.

    The advice had been reviewed recently and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation did not change its recommendation, it added.

    Recent shortage of the swine flu vaccine has raised alarm across the country as central Government tapped into its leftover stocks of last year’s Pandemrix swine flu vaccine for distribution.

    Director of immunisation, Professor David Salisbury, said GPs could now get their hands on Pandemrix:”There really is no reason for anyone to be turned away on the basis that there is no vaccine available or not being sent out.”

    Health trusts and GPs have placed orders for 200,500 doses of which 185,000 have already been dispatched.

    Pharmacy giant Boots revealed its stores had “very limited” stocks of the winter flu jab, admitting there was currently no hope of replenishing its supplies.

  • 15 more Swine Flu deaths reported in Wales

    Posted on January 13th, 2011 admin No comments

    A FURTHER 15 flu-related deaths have been reported to the Assembly Government in the last week.

    It brings the total number of flu deaths in Wales to 27 since October.

    Officials said 49 people were in critical care in hospitals across the country, including 23 people aged 16 to 44; 19 aged 45 to 64; and seven over the age of 65.

    Aneurin Bevan Health Board, which covers Gwent, said it had 12 patients with flu-like symptoms in critical care, the highest of any health board in Wales, while Betsi Cadwaladwr UHB closely followed with 11 patients in a critical condition.

    Abertawe Bro Morgannwg and Cardiff and Vale each have nine patients in critical care; Cwm Taf in the Rhondda has five and Hywel Dda three.

    It comes as figures released by Public Health Wales show a slight increase in the number of people contacting their GP with flu-like symptoms.

    Last week there were 93 GP consultations for every 100,000 people living in Wales, up from 89.2 for the week ending January 2.

    It was a slight increase on the week ending December 26, in which there were 92.1 consultations for every 100,000 people living in Wales.

    The figures revealed the highest level of GP consultations was for people aged between 25 and 34, at a rate of 147 consultations per 100,000.

    But experts believe the true number of people who have died as a result of flu this winter in Wales will be far higher.

    Doctors in Wales this week began using stocks of the 2009 swine flu jab to vaccinate patients. It follows shortages of the seasonal flu vaccine in parts of Wales, including the nation’s largest hospital – the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

    Wales’ chief medical officer Dr Tony Jewell defended the decision to stock fewer seasonal flu vaccines for the 2010 flu season.

    He said: “Whilst we have been working to make stocks of the vaccine that was developed against swine flu available to be used where supplies of seasonal flu vaccine have run low, we are now well into the flu season.

    “People in at-risk groups are at a higher risk of complications from seasonal flu, and the best protection is early vaccination.

    “A press and publicity campaign has been running since October and has included television, radio and bus adverts to let people know if they are in an at-risk group, and that the vaccine is available free of charge to those groups from GPs.

    “We have also encouraged health boards and GPs to ensure that their patients and front line NHS staff are vaccinated against seasonal flu.”

    He added: “Despite the slight increase in the clinical consultation rate for influenza this week compared to the previous week, the rate of consultations for flu-like illness in Wales still remains within the levels of normal seasonal flu activity.

    “Most healthy people will recover from flu-like illnesses within five to seven days with plenty of rest and drinking non-alcoholic fluids.”

    A spokesman for Hywel Dda LHB said hospitals throughout the area were operating “at a very high capacity” due to the double-impact of higher levels of suspected seasonal and swine flu cases and increased numbers of general admissions.

    As of yesterday, 13 patients with flu-like symptoms were being treated at Withybush General Hospital in Haverfordwest; five at Bronglais in Aberystwyth; one in Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli and another at Glangwili General Hospital in Carmarthen.

    Three of the patients were in intensive care.

  • Ten deaths in East Yorkshire swine flu outbreak

    Posted on January 13th, 2011 admin No comments

    The number of people with swine flu who have died in East Yorkshire so far this winter has risen to 10.

    Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust said nine of the 10 people had other underlying health problems.

    One had no previous health issues and swine flu was said to have been a contributory factor in their death.

    Five of those who died were men and five were women. No children were among the dead, the trust added. New national figures are to be released later.

    The latest number of deaths in England, Wales and Scotland this winter from flu verified by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) was 50, with 45 of these due to swine flu. It can take time for deaths reported by local trusts to be verified and added to the national figures.

    Operations cancelledThe East Yorkshire figures are for deaths at Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham. They do not include hospitals in Goole and Beverley.

    More than 200 people have so far been admitted to the hospitals with suspected swine flu since 1 December, with 84 cases confirmed.

    The outbreak has meant the trust has been forced to cancel some major operations to keep intensive care beds free.

    In December, 168 operations were postponed and up to Tuesday, 50 operations had been postponed in January.

    The trust carries out about 7,100 planned operations each month, which includes major surgery.

  • 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.

  • Island relies on H1N1 vaccine until new flu jabs arrive

    Posted on January 10th, 2011 admin No comments

    It could be weeks before the Isle of Man receives an all-important delivery of seasonal flu vaccination.

    In the meantime the government is relying on stocks of the old swine flu vaccine, 3000 doses of this were released last week.

    But Health bosses insist there is no vaccine shortage on the island yet.

    Dr Parameswaran Kishore from Public Health said: “We might not get new supplies in time so we’re using the swine flu vaccine to fill the gaps.”

    Shelf life

    Health officials have taken the action in the light of news across the British Isles which indicates that flu deaths figures have risen to more than 50.

    Some island pharmacies have now run out of the seasonal flu vaccine.

    Dr Kishore added: “There is a mis-match between supply and demand in some areas at the moment. Some places have it, others don’t- but there’s not an island-wide shortage. “The problem is that there may not be anymore vaccine coming for the next few weeks.”

    The vaccine, know as Pandemrix, was stockpiled in 2009 but has a shelf life until the end of 2011.

    Pregnant women

    It only protects against the swine flu strain, just one of three circulating this winter, but as swine flu is the dominant strain in circulation the government has said it is the best option available.

    “The vaccine is particularly appropriate for pregnant women since their increased risk of complication is confined to the H1N1 virus and Pandmrix also provides protection for the newborn,” said Dr Kishore.

    The remaining doses of the seasonal flu vaccine will continue to be available to the over 65s and other high risk groups.

    This kind of scare over vaccine shortages is unheard of, as GPs initially struggled to persuade people to get the jab at all.

    Surge in demand

    Back in October we were telling people who were in the risk categories to make an appointment to get the vaccine,” continued Dr Kishore.

    “Initially the uptake was very poor because no one took it seriously.

    “Since the news that there has been flu related deaths, there has been a surge in demand.”

    “It’s difficult to predict how long our supplies will last because it depends on uptake and how quickly we can get more vaccines,” added Dr Kishore.

    The government are advising the public not to panic as the Health Protection Agency have predicted that the outbreak may have peaked and the number of cases are likely to plateau this week.

    But the move to open up the stockpiles of the swine flu virus shows there is real concern about the supply problems.

  • Cameron admits to swine flu vaccine shortages and says we may see ‘significant outbreaks for years to come’

    Posted on January 9th, 2011 admin No comments

    David Cameron was yesterday forced to deny that spending cuts had made Britain vulnerable to swine flu as he warned that the country faced ‘significant outbreaks’ of flu for years to come.

    But the Prime Minister said lessons must be learned from the vaccine shortages that have seen GP surgeries turning away vulnerable people seeking the flu shot in recent days.

    His comments came as Labour accused the Coalition of putting pregnant women at risk by failing to promote the flu jab.

    The official death toll from the flu outbreak since October has now risen to 50. Most were victims of swine flu, the dominant strain of influenza in circulation.

    The latest Department of Health figures show that more people are going to their GPs in England and Wales with winter flu symptoms than at any time since the epidemic of 1999-2000 in which 20,000 died.

    This winter’s outbreak is still below epidemic levels and is not as serious as the 2009 summer outbreak, when 500 people died.

    However, doctors are concerned because the swine flu strain is hitting the youngest hardest.

    In a normal flu season, the elderly suffer most from infection but this winter around 90 per cent of patients being treated are under 65.

    Last week the Government announced it was being forced to raid last year’s stocks of the swine flu jab to plug shortages in the vaccination programme.

    The old vaccine only protects against one of the three strains in circulation.

    Mr Cameron – who revealed that he had not had a jab this year – denied the shortages were caused by spending cuts and insisted that the Government had followed expert advice throughout.

    ‘Doctors did order something like 14 million doses of vaccine. Because of very heavy usage there are some shortages in some places,’ he told BBC Radio 5 Live. It is very important that we learn the lessons from this.

    ‘One of the lessons is that it looks likely that, because of the prevalence of swine flu and other strains, we might have quite significant outbreaks in future years and we need to look at the way we order vaccinations and whether more needs to be done.’

    He went on: ‘This is nothing to do with cuts. The NHS is not having cuts.’

    Out of the 50 people who have died from flu since October, 69 per cent were in an ‘at risk’ group. At risk groups include pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

    Labour yesterday renewed its attack on the Coalition’s handling of the outbreak.

    Shadow Health Secretary John Healey questioned why the Government was refusing to publish figures on the number of deaths among pregnant women.

    In a letter to Andrew Lansley, the Secretary of State for Health, he said there was ‘no justification’ for not letting the public have information about pregnant women.

    He added: ‘This is the first year in which it was decided to classify pregnant women among the at risk groups and offer them the projection of a free flu jab.

    ‘When did you not ensure more effort was made early to reassure women that the vaccine is safe and important for them to receive?

    ‘Why did you axe the annual autumn advertising campaign to help inform the public about flu risk and boost take up of the vaccine, including among women who are pregnant?’

    Around 600 people die from seasonal flu in a typical year. In an epidemic year the death toll rises to around 13,000.

    Last year at least 12 of the victims of swine flu were pregnant women.

    Ministers will carry out a review later this year into whether vaccines should be ordered centrally, rather than by GP surgeries.

    There is no vaccine shortage in Scotland where supplies are bought in by pharmacies and distributed among practices.

  • Fears over mutating swine flu virus that could render vaccine useless

    Posted on January 9th, 2011 admin No comments

    A research team has hurriedly been re-formed to investigate whether the swine flu virus has started to mutate in a way that will render the vaccine ineffective.

    Senior Government scientists have already discovered slight genetic mutations in the H1N1 virus.

    They are checking whether this is causing some people to be more severely affected, although there is no evidence at this stage to suggest the changes would stop the vaccine working or prevent the anti-viral drug Tamiflu from being effective.

    So far, 45 people are known to have died from swine flu since October.

    The team, based at Imperial College London, are testing the DNA samples of hundreds of swine flu victims.

    Professor Peter Openshaw, director of the Centre for Respiratory Infection at Imperial, said: ‘We have paid particular attention to whether the mutations are affecting how well the vaccine works and whether the slight mutations have led to it becoming more severe.’

    The study, known as MOSAIC, was set up in 2009 to monitor the virus during the pandemic, but it was swiftly re-assembled last month with the latest outbreak.

    Asthma specialist nurse Katy Odeadra, who works in the Chest and Allergy Clinic at St Mary’s Hospital, said: ‘All the talk among doctors and nurses dealing with swine flu cases is of a mutated form of the virus.’

    The Health Protection Agency said yesterday: ‘The vaccine still works.’

  • Swine flu victims are fighting for their lives

    Posted on January 8th, 2011 admin No comments

    FIFTEEN people in Worcestershire hospitals are fighting for their lives after contracting swine flu.

    As of yesterday, there were a total of 58 patients with flu-like symptoms, 26 at Worcestershire Royal Hospital and 22 at the Alexandra in Redditch.

    Meanwhile, a leading doctor has claimed that more than a third of GP practices have run out of vaccine.

    Dr Simon Parkinson, secretary of the Worcestershire Local Medical Committee, said GP practices in the county had been extremely busy as medical staff treated people with suspected swine flu – and stocks of the combined seasonal vaccine were running low. He said: “More than a third of Worcestershire practices have already run out of vaccine and the rest of us will use up our supply in the next few days.

    “Many of us have got some swine flu vaccine from last year left and we can use that for people who have not been immunised and are at risk.”

    As of yesterday there were 15 patients in critical care units with either suspected or confirmed flu (all strains) at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital and the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch. In total 320 patients with flu-like symptoms have been treated at both hospitals since December 1 last year.

    Despite GP concerns, a spokesman for NHS Worcestershire, which holds the purse strings for county healthcare, said there would be enough vaccine to go around. She said: “NHS Worcestershire is aware of the national problem regarding a shortage in flu vaccine supplies and this has affected supplies in some Worcestershire GP practices.

    “The trust is helping movement of vaccines from practices with higher stocks to those with lower stocks, in addition we have asked practices to order more vaccines.”

    Sue Lloyd, assistant practice manager at St John’s House Surgery in St John’s, Worcester, said the practice had enough supplies at the moment but said that if everyone they had written to asked for a vaccine they may run out.

    She said: “Since there have been swine flu deaths people have been panicking and we have had lots of people not on the risk register asking for the vaccine and we have had to direct them to pharmacies where they can pay for it privately.”

    According to NHS Worcestershire, there are 3,000 flu vaccines available in GP practices across the county and some practices have been asked to order further stocks or administer left-over swine flu vaccine instead.

    The number of people in intensive care with suspected or confirmed flu in critical care units in the West Midlands has fallen over the last week from 88 last week to 78 this week.