02/10/2009

Highest Levels Of Swine Flu Reached

The number of visits being made to local GPs by people who fear swine flu infection is continuing to rise.

Amid fears of a 'second wave' of infections, the Department of Health's latest weekly flu bulletin - for the week ending Friday 25 September, gives a good representation of the level of flu activity across Northern Ireland.

It revealed that GP consultations for flu and flu-like illness have risen again this week to 208 per 100,000 of population.

Doctors report that rates are highest in the 5-14 age group.

NI's 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 ongoing increase in swine flu activity suggests that we are in a second wave. This is something we are monitoring closely," he explained.

The data also shows that 'Out of Hours' calls for flu increased for a fourth week in a row and are again are highest in the 5-14 age group.

There were 61 new cases of laboratory confirmed swine flu during the week, which is also a new high, as it is the largest weekly number reported to date;.
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It brings the total number of laboratory confirmed cases in Northern Ireland as at noon on 30 September to 336.

Other things are also on the increase, with antiviral prescriptions also increasing to 831 compared with 571 courses prescribed in the previous period.

A total of 10,623 antiviral prescriptions have now been issued and the number of cumulative swine flu hospitalisations has reached 167.

There have been two deaths related to swine flu.

Meanwhile, Dr McBride has also just launched the Department of Health's free seasonal flu vaccination programme.

He said yesterday that stocks of the seasonal flu vaccine are now in place in Northern Ireland and ready to be administered to 'at risk' groups.

The seasonal flu campaign is aimed at all those in vulnerable groups to ensure they take advantage of the vaccine on offer and so that they are better prepared to fight off infection. The campaign runs from October to December.

He explained that a separate swine flu vaccination campaign is also due to be launched later in the autumn.

"Details will follow in due course. The seasonal flu vaccine will only protect against seasonal flu," he said.

See: Swine Flu Spreads Across Country

(BMcC/KMcA)

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