03/07/2009

Fourth UK Death From Swine Flu

On top of five new cases of swine flu being confirmed in Northern Ireland today, it has been revealed that a 19-year-old in London is the fourth person to die from swine flu in the UK.

The Stormont Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey said that he will now move to a 'treatment phase' to deal with the pandemic as things escalate.

Minister McGimpsey said antivirals would only now be offered to people who have contracted swine flu, and not those who might have simply been in contact with an infected person.

The tragic news from London came just hours after a sibling of an infected child at St Ronan's primary school in Newry - who already has the virus - was also diagnosed.

That case, and three other new ones yesterday brought the total number of people with swine flu in Northern Ireland on Thursday to 38.

Five new cases have been confirmed today, (Friday) with two of these cases being travel-related and three contacts of previously confirmed cases.

That brings the NI total today to 43 confirmed cases of swine flu.

In response, there will be only now be a step-by-step treatment approach, giving clinicians discretion on how best to treat a patient with swine flu.

It means that people who contract swine flu will still be offered antivirals but that they will no longer be used as a preventative measure.

In addition, the routine testing of suspected cases and the tracing of close contacts of a symptomatic patient will be discontinued.
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The other three new NI cases are in adults who have recently returned from affected areas.

Mr McGimpsey said: "Health Ministers across all four administrations have noted clear scientific advice that the majority of cases in the UK so far have not been severe.

"Those people who have contracted the virus have generally made a full and rapid recovery - though a small minority of cases have had more serious illness.

"We have also considered whether we continue to offer antivirals to all patients displaying symptoms or whether a more targeted approach should be adopted, focusing on those most at risk of becoming more seriously ill," he continued.

"The Scientific Advisory Group in Emergencies has considered this question and reports that on balance the science points towards adopting a targeted approach, but acknowledges that this is a 'finely balanced' decision," he said.

However, they are also conscious that - as this is a new virus - it cannot yet with confidence be directly compared to seasonal flu.

"Given this, we have decided to adopt a safety first, precautionary approach and antivirals will continue to be offered only to people who have contracted swine flu," he explained.

Clear guidance is being issued to doctors to ensure that those at higher risk get priority access to antivirals, within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

See: Swine Flu Numbers Rise To 34

See: London Teenager Is 4th Swine Flu Victim

(BMcC/JM)

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