Cherie Blair suffering from swine flu

News that the former prime minister’s wife had become Britain’s most high profile victim of the virus came as figures emerged showing that the number of swine flu cases jumped by nearly 50 per cent in a week.

Mrs Blair started feeling unwell at the start of the week and received a diagnosis of swine flu on last week.

She was given a course of the antiviral Tamiflu and told to cancel all engagements until she recovers. Mrs Blair had been due today to pick up an honorary degree from Liverpool’s Hope University in recognition of her work as a human rights lawyer. A staff barbecue has also been cancelled as a precaution.

Data from a sample of GPs’ surgeries, seen by The Times, shows that up to 40,000 people complained to their doctor last week of “flu-like illness” in England and Wales, with a huge rise in the number of young children being affected.

The report shows that the highest rates of reported illness are in children aged five to 14, with 160 of every 100,000 in this age group reporting symptoms, followed by 114 per 100,000 in those aged up to four years old.

Overall, the rate of people complaining of symptoms increased to 73.4 cases for every 100,000 people in the week to Sunday, compared to 50.3 cases per 100,000 the week before.

This is a rise of 46 per cent and is equivalent to about 39,150 people across the country reporting symptoms compared to about 27,000 people who did so the previous week.

The figures, from the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), are based on a sample of 84 doctors’ surgeries across the country. Although they do not provide a total of confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus they are used by the Government as an official measure of how the outbreak is spreading.

The figures show the current outbreak is already worse than the seasonal flu experienced over Christmas and the New Year which was the worst for eight years. The winter flu outbreak hit a peak of 69 cases per 100,000 people across England and Wales. Doctors would normally expect to see fewer than 30 cases per 100,000 during the summer.

Separately, however, the RCGP criticised the Government’s response to the flu pandemic, accusing it of providing conflicting advice to both doctors and patients.


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