Swine flu- rise in UK deaths but overall numbers decline

The number of deaths in England linked to swine flu jumped by nine to 36 over the past week, according to the Health Protection Agency.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA), at a briefing in London, said 530 patients had been admitted to hospital in England – down on the previous week’s total of 793.

The HPA estimated there were 30,000 new cases of swine flu in England, but said the majority of cases continued to be “mild”.

“There is no sign that the virus is changing,” said the HPA. “It is not becoming more severe or developing resistance to anti-virals.”

The number of weekly GP consultations dropped over the past week, coinciding with the launch of the National Pandemic Flu Service.

Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson said the rise in the death toll did not indicate that the virus was becoming more potent.

“I don’t think it suggests any increase in severity in the disease because we would have expected a higher proportion to be in intensive care or in hospital if the severity was increasing,” he said.

“I think we are probably seeing the level of increase in the disease that would be expected, really, from the proportion of people in hospitals with serious disease.”

Sir Liam predicted a second wave of the virus could strike after children returned to school but was unable to state exactly when this was likely to hit.

“It’s just guesswork,” he said. “We would anticipate when the schools were back, at some point after that, it will start to rise again.”

He added there were no plans to close schools or delay their opening on a national scale.

“I think we are pretty certain we will see a second wave,” said Sir Liam.

The HPA said 56 of the 530 people admitted to hospital after contracting swine flu were in “critical care”.

Globally, the total of confirmed cases has reached 193,000 and the number of deaths is 1,362.

Sir Liam said the National Pandemic Flu Service would remain in place although the briefing was told it could be “scaled up or down” depending on the number of new cases reported.


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