Skip the NI Direct Bar
Skip navigation

Weekly swine flu bulletin

Thursday, 1 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 25 September (Week 39) 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 risen again this week to 208 per 100,000, reaching the highest rate since the start of the enhanced influenza surveillance programme began nine years ago. Rates are highest in the 5-14 age group;
  • · Out of Hours calls for flu and flu-like illness have also increased for a fourth week in a row and are highest in the 5-14 age group;
  • · There were 61 new cases of laboratory confirmed swine flu during week 39 – the highest weekly number reported to date;
  • · The total number of laboratory confirmed cases in Northern Ireland as at noon on 30 September was 336;
  • · Antiviral prescriptions have also increased to 831 during week 39 compared with 571 courses prescribed in week 38; a total of 10,623 antiviral prescriptions have been issued at noon 23 September;
  • · The number of cumulative swine flu hospitalisations is 167 as at noon on 30 September 2009;
  • · There have been two deaths related to swine flu.

The full weekly flu bulletin is available at www.dhsspsni.gov.uk and www.nidirect.gov.uk .

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride said: “The number of contacts for flu-like illness made to GPs during this period has risen again over this last week, reaching the highest level for nine years. The rate remains highest in the 5-14 age group. Although, calls made to GPs Out of Hours for flu like illness have risen for the fourth week in a row, primary care services continue to cope well despite the increased demand on their services. The ongoing increase in swine flu activity suggests that we are in a second wave. This is something we are monitoring closely.

“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, and will need to start taking antivirals as soon as they are confirmed with the illness. We are still learning more about the risk profile of the virus, but we already know that the following are particularly susceptible.

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

It is vital that people in these higher risk groups get antivirals and start taking them as soon as possible – ideally 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 or nidirect

6. The updated planning assumptions paper is available online.

7. Media enquiries to the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0579. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned.