Ten deaths raise fears of a new swine flu epidemic
By Jo Macfarlane
Ten people have died after contracting the swine flu virus in the past six weeks.
Health Protection Agency (HPA) officials have confirmed the H1N1 virus that caused last year’s global pandemic is circulating again this winter.
The deaths have occurred across England and most of those affected, although not all, had underlying health problems before coming into contact with the virus.
It is not known whether the victims died as a result of swine flu or because of complications related to their other conditions. Five of the ten adults had received the flu vaccine.
The HPA said a number of severe cases of swine flu were emerging, particularly among adults under the age of 65, which follows a similar pattern to last year’s outbreak.
Intensive care units are already dealing with the worst cases. An Army barracks and eight schools have been affected by flu outbreaks in the past week, although not all were confirmed as H1N1.
The HPA insisted overall flu levels were normal for the time of year.
Of 89 cases of flu tested by GPs during the past week, 18 turned out to be swine flu.
Professor David Salisbury, director of immunisation at the Department of Health, urged people to have the flu jab.