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Weekly swine flu bulletin

Thursday, 12 November 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 6 November (Week 45) and gives a good representation of the level of flu activity across Northern Ireland.

Key points from the bulletin are as follows:

  • GP consultation rates for combined ‘flu/ FLI have decreased from 242.9 (updated) in Wk 44 to 221.0/100,000 population in Wk 45 (9% decrease).  Rates remain highest in the 5-14 year age group.
  • OOH calls for ‘flu/FLI have decreased from 1056 in Wk 44 to 663 in Wk 45 (37% decrease).  
  • One hundred and fifty-three swine influenza detections A/H1N1v in Wk 45 compared to 215 in Wk 44 (29% decrease).  
  • A cumulative total of 1220 swine influenza detections in Northern Ireland as at noon 11th November 2009.
  • A cumulative total of 527 hospitalised swine flu cases as at noon on 11th November 2009.
  • The number of new hospitalised cases decreased from 87 (updated) in Wk 44 to 50 in Wk 45 (43% decrease).
  • We have been notified of the death of an adult with underlying health conditions who has tested positive for swine flu, bringing the total number of swine flu related deaths to 11. No further details are currently available.
  • Antiviral prescriptions have decreased from 2837 in Wk 44 to 1374 in Wk 45 (52% decrease).

The full weekly flu bulletin is available on the DHSSPS website and nidirect.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said: “Sadly, we have been notified of the death of an adult with underlying health conditions who has tested positive for swine flu.  I would like to express my sincere sympathy to the family of this patient.  We should all now respect their privacy and allow them to grieve in peace for their loved one.”

The Minister continued: “A further decrease in consultation rates in the past week is encouraging and suggests that our preparations are working.  However, swine flu still continues to circulate widely in the community and it is vital that we do not become complacent.

“The public have a major role to play in this pandemic, not only looking after themselves, but those they come in contact with by getting the vaccine when it is offered to them.  It is the best way for people to be protected against swine flu.  We can be reassured that by mid December, all those in the priority groups who are most at risk among our population will have been offered the vaccine.”

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride said: “While figures are encouraging, we should be mindful of countries like the Ukraine which are experiencing high levels of swine flu related hospitalisations and deaths.  This should serve as a reminder to us all to be vigilant and take every measure possible to protect ourselves against the virus.

“As well as getting the vaccine when it is offered to you, 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!

“I would like 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.”

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 clinical priority groups for the swine flu vaccination programme were identified by the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). They are prioritised as they are at greatest risk of complications if they become infected with swine flu, and hence the initial focus on protecting individuals in these groups.

  • The priority groups for the swine flu vaccination, in order of priority are:
  • Individuals aged six months and up to 65 years in the current seasonal flu vaccine clinical at risk groups;
  • Pregnant women;
  • Household contacts of immunocompromised individuals;
  • People aged 65 and over in the current seasonal flu vaccine clinical at risk groups.

Frontline health and social care workers are also amongst the first to be offered the vaccine.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. The Northern Ireland swine flu helpline number 0800 0514 142 is a freephone helpline (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) for those who want more information about swine flu. Textphone 18001 0800 0 514 142.

The UK-wide flu information line on 0800 1513 513 provides regularly updated advice on swine flu. This is also a freephone number.

5. Further information about swine flu can be found on www.dhsspsni.gov.uk and www.nidirect.gov.uk

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.