08/01/2010

Swine Flu Claims Latest NI Victim

There has been another fatality from swine flu with yesterday's Department of Health's weekly flu bulletin revealing a further flu related death.

This brings the total to 17, as at 6 January, officially - although two other local people have died outside NI from the virus.

NI Health Minister Michael McGimpsey (pictured) said: "Sadly, we have been notified of a further swine flu related death in an adult. I would like to express my sincere sympathy to the family and would ask everyone to respect their privacy and allow them to grieve for their loved one in peace."

This latest bulletin covers both week 52 and week 53 as last week the Department only issued summary data as a full bulletin was not available due to the Christmas holiday period.

Among the key points are that GP consultation rates increased this week from 54.2 in week 51 to 57.2/100,000 population in week 53 (6% decrease) and that the number of detections increased from 77 in week 51 to 93 in week 53 (21% increase).

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Elizabeth Mitchell said: "Throughout the Christmas and New Year period we have seen an increase in the number of calls to out of hours services for flu and flu like illness.

"Clearly, this was not unexpected given the closure of GP surgeries over the holiday period," she explained, noting out of hours calls actually increased this week from 138 in week 51 to 160 in week 52 and 234 in Week 53. (70% increase).
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There has been a cumulative total of 1,355 swine flu detections in Northern Ireland as at noon 6 January 2010 while there has been a total of 577 hospitalised swine flu cases.

There were no new hospitalised cases week 52 and 53, but the latest death comes just a week after the Department announced the death of a 92-year-old man with underlying health conditions.

That in turn followed earlier news that a nine-year-old child died from swine flu during the run-up to Christmas.

A fall in antiviral prescriptions has continued, with a decrease from 137 in Week 51 to 48 in Week 53 (65% decrease).

"Swine flu has now been circulating within Northern Ireland since May 2009. We have seen two waves of infection from the virus and our planning and preparation has meant that the likelihood of a further wave has been significantly reduced.

"This is due in part to the extent in which the virus has already circulated in the community, and also as a result of the very successful vaccination programme in Northern Ireland.

"To date some 240,000 people have received the vaccination. Returns are still coming in so we know that the actual number will be greater.

"The programme for children aged six months to five years is also underway and I would encourage all parents to take up the offer of the vaccine for their child," Dr Mitchell continued.

See: Shock Reminder Of Deadly Flu Virus

(BMcC/GK)

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