30/06/2009

Swine Flu Numbers Rise To 34

On foot of news that a second pupil at an infection-hit Co Down school has swine flu - it has emerged that yet another case was confirmed today - making a total of 34.

It was also claimed that as many as one third of the population in Northern Ireland could be infected with swine flu by the autumn.

The Stormont Health Minister predicted the shock statistic the day after a third NI child was diagnosed with the virus and just hours before the 34th infection.

In the latest news, on Wednesday, a male - believed to be a 'contact' of a patient confirmed earlier as infected after returning from Mexico - has also taken ill.

He is said to be recovering at home and is on antivirals.

Meanwhile, the child who attends Saint Ronan's Primary School was confirmed as suffering with swine flu yesterday.

The Newry school was closed on Monday as a precautionary measure after a first child who attends the school was diagnosed with the virus.

The P2 child - and his younger sibling - became ill after returning from a family holiday to Mexico.

They were the first children in Northern Ireland to contract the infection and are being treated at home and are said to be recovering well.

Earlier this week, the Department of Health said that the total number of cases here was 32 and that the number of cases under investigation in Northern Ireland was 15.

However, on Tuesday, it confirmed the latest case, bringing the total to 33.

On Monday, around 30 pupils and some staff in the class attended by the first infected six-year-old child were offered anti-virals medication, (pictured above).

Dr Carolyn Harper from the Public Health Agency has said the risk to the public remains low.
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"What we are doing is part of a precautionary measure to reduce the risk further", she said.

"The fact that the school will not reopen reduces the risk of the virus spreading among the children but we will obviously continue to monitor the situation."

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said on Wednesday that £53m had already been spent in Northern Ireland dealing with the disease and that figure was rising.

Speaking before attending an emergency meeting of the UK government's COBRA committee to discuss developments, he said: "I would like to reassure the public that this situation is not unexpected and the increase in confirmed cases reflects what is happening across the rest of the UK."

Previously, speaking in the Stormont Assembly on Tuesday morning he commented: "In Northern Ireland, the vast majority of cases to date continue to be travel-related.

"However as in the rest of the UK, we can expect to see clusters here, with a growing proportion of cases arising from community transmission rather than travel.

"This is entirely in line with what we would expect in the course of an outbreak. These 'local hotspots' will also continue to grow across the UK in the weeks and months ahead.

"Of course, as many families will now be heading off on holiday, we can still also expect a continued number of travel related cases," he continued.

"As we learn more about how this virus behaves, we have been adapting our response accordingly. Early actions taken to contain and reduce the spread of the virus throughout Northern Ireland have been very successful," he insisted.

See: BMA Warns Of 'Frontline' Service Cuts

(BMcC/JM)

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