17/12/2009

Shock Reminder Of Deadly Flu Virus

Although GP consultation rates for flu or flu-like symptoms continued their decrease - being down by 19% in the past week - there's been a shocking reminder of the possible deadly consequences of catching swine flu.

The news that a nine-year-old child in Northern Ireland died from swine flu this week has shaken any complacency that may have been felt within the community.

The death of the child, who had underlying health conditions, was announced in the Department of Health's weekly swine flu update this morning.

NI Health Minister Michael McGimpsey (pictured) expressed his "sincere sympathy" to the child's family and the Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said the child's death was a "tragic reminder that the swine flu virus is still prevalent".

To date, 16 people from Northern Ireland who had swine flu have died. Fourteen of them died in Northern Ireland, one in England and one in Spain.

However, as well as GP consultation rates falling and there being a slight fall in out of hours calls for flu and flu-like illness - from 190 in Wk 49 to 187 in Wk 50 - or a 2% decrease, there were still a further 15 swine influenza detections in Wk 50.
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That means a cumulative total of 1,344 swine influenza detections in Northern Ireland as at noon 16 December with 573 hospitalised swine flu cases - although the new hospitalised cases have decreased from nine in Wk 49 to four in Wk 50.

But, while no new swine flu related deaths have been reported in week 50, within the last few days, the unnamed nine-year-old child has died, bringing the official total number of swine flu related deaths to 14, (16).

On vaccination, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride said: "The response to phase one of the vaccination programme has been excellent and I am pleased so many have taken up the offer to protect themselves from swine flu.

"In Northern Ireland, we have information that almost 220,000 people have now been vaccinated. Returns are still coming in from around a fifth of GP practices, so the actual number vaccinated is likely to be somewhat greater.

"The Health and Social Care Board also continues to progress plans for phase two of the vaccination programme.

"Children over six months and under five years will be called for vaccination by either their local HSC Trust or GP practice in the coming weeks," he said.

See: Drop In Swine Flu Cases

(BMcC/KMcA)

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