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Weekly Swine Flu bulletin

Thursday, 8 October 2009

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has today published the weekly flu bulletin.

The bulletin includes data for the week ending Friday 2 October (Week 40) and gives a good representation of the level of flu activity across Northern Ireland.

Key points from the bulletin are as follows:

  • GP consultations for flu and flu-like illness have fallen this week to 166 per 100,000, but still remain considerably higher than normal. Rates remain highest in the 5-14 age group;
  • Out of Hours calls for flu and flu-like illness have increased for a fifth week in a row and also remain highest in the 5-14 age group;
  • There were 75 new cases of laboratory confirmed swine flu during week 40– the highest weekly number reported to date;
  • The total number of laboratory confirmed cases in Northern Ireland as at noon on 7 October was 433;
  • Antiviral prescriptions have decreased to 750 during week 40 compared with 831 courses prescribed in week 39; a total of 11,749 antiviral prescriptions have been issued at noon 7 October;
  • The number of cumulative swine flu hospitalisations is 216 as at noon on 7 October 2009; there has been a 61% increase in new hospitalisations this week from 38 in week 39 to 61 in week 40. This is the highest weekly number to date;
  • There have been three deaths related to swine flu. (Please note a further death has been notified today bringing the number of deaths to four as at noon on 8 October 2009)

The full weekly flu bulletin is available at the DHSSPS website and NI Direct website.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Elizabeth Mitchell said: “The number of contacts for flu-like illness made to GPs and calls to GPs Out of Hours services during this period remain high and we are again seeing the highest rates in the 5-14 age group. Our primary care services and hospitals continue to cope well despite the demand on their services. The ongoing activity suggests that we remain in the second wave.

“Although we have seen a significant increase in the number of hospitalisations and have sadly reported two further deaths, I want to reassure the public that for the vast majority of people swine flu remains a relatively mild illness from which you will make a full recovery.

“If you think you have swine flu stay at home, please do not visit your GP practice, pharmacy or A&E in person. People with underlying health conditions who are at higher risk of complications if they develop influenza should call their GP for advice and assessment for antivirals. This includes people with long-term conditions such as diabetes or chronic lung disease. In addition, pregnant women who develop flu-like symptoms should phone their GP promptly. Likewise, parents of children under five years should call their doctor if their child develops flu-like symptoms.

“For otherwise fit and healthy people, there is usually no need to take antivirals. Most people will recover at home by taking simple measures to alleviate symptoms such as resting, taking paracetamol and drinking plenty of fluids. If, however, your condition suddenly deteriorates or is getting worse after seven days (five for a child) then you should contact your GP or out-of-hours service.

“Simple but effective hygiene measures such as frequent hand-washing can also help. Remember to cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then put the tissue into a bin – catch it, bin it, kill it!”

For further information visit the nidirect website, or call the Northern Ireland swine flu helpline on 0800 0 514 142 (9:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday); textphone 18001 0800 0 514 142. Information is also available on the swine flu information line 0800 1 513 513.

Notes to editors:

1. The UK has moved to a treatment phase in relation to managing the swine flu pandemic. This means that our focus is on treating those people who actually have swine flu and in particular those at higher risk of developing complications. In addition, the routine testing of suspected cases and the tracing of close contacts of a symptomatic patient has been discontinued. The level of flu in the community is therefore being monitored using a range of surveillance mechanisms through GP practices, Out of Hours centres, antiviral prescriptions and hospital surveillance systems. This enables us to monitor flu levels and identify trends in activity.

2. Some groups of people are more at risk of serious illness if they catch swine flu. Those with:-

  • Chronic lung disease
  • Chronic heart disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Chronic neurological disease
  • Immunosuppression (whether caused by disease or treatment)
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Patients who have had drug treatment for asthma within the past three years

As well as:-

  • Pregnant women
  • Young children under five years old
  • People aged 65 years and older

It is vital that people in these higher risk groups contact their GP for assessment and if advised to start antivirals should start taking them within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

3. The Northern Ireland swine flu helpline number 0800 0514 142 is a freephone helpline for those who want more information about swine flu. Textphone 18001 0800 0 514 142.

4. The UK-wide flu information line on 0800 1 513 513 provides regularly updated advice on swine flu. This is also a freephone number.

5. Further information about swine flu can be found on the DHSSPS website and the NI Direct website

6. Media enquiries to the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0575. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned.