Week 36 of the Swine Flu outbreak has witnessed a substantial amendment to the government’s fatality predictions, with the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) reporting markedly lowered predictions of H1N1 related deaths. Specifically, the government’s experts now anticipate approximately 19,000 deaths in the worst case scenario – a significant fall from the previous figure of 65,000 fatalities that was given in July. Both figures function under the assumption that 30% of the population would be infected should the virus surge during the autumn and winter months.
While the number of new cases continues to fall – with around 4,500 new cases reported for last week, compared to 5,000 cases for the week before and a zenith of 130,000 at the start of August - the HPA, continues to warn Britons against complacency in the struggle against the virus. The total number of H1N1-related deaths has now risen to 70. In week 35, an additional 348 patients were hospitalized with the H1N1 virus. HPA figures continue to be questioned for their reliability since the transition to the National Pandemic Flu Service (NPFS) earlier in the month. In an international context, while the entire EU/EFTA area has reported 46,301 laboratory confirmed cases to date, the UK continues suffer the most in Europe with a total of 70 H1N1-related deaths to date. Figures in other key geographical areas, such as the Americas, either stabilised or fell markedly in terms of the overall number of cases.
As it has now become almost fashionable to note, while the most recent figures are doubtless promising, there is still little room for complacency. Indeed, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Sir. Liam Donaldson now predicts that a more serious wave of the pandemic will hit the nation in approximately 2 months time. "We are unlikely to see a peak before the second half of October which is something that we are pleased about as we are expecting to be able to start using the vaccine during October”, he said.
“Tropical regions of South and Southeast Asia continue to experience geographically regional or widespread influenza activity (represented by countries such as India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia). Many countries in the region are reporting increasing or sustained high levels of respiratory disease, and a few (Thailand and Brunei Darussalam) have begun to report a declining trend in the level of respiratory diseases.
In tropical regions of Central America and the Caribbean (represented by countries such as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, and Cuba), influenza activity continues to be geographically regional or widespread, however, most are now reporting a declining trend in the level of respiratory diseases.
Countries in the equatorial and tropical regions of South America (represented by Ecuador, Venzezuela, Peru, and parts of Brazil) continue to experience geographically regional or widespread influenza activity, with many reporting an increasing trend in the level of respiratory diseases.
Although many countries in temperate regions of the southern hemisphere (Chile, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand) have passed the peak of their winter influenza epidemic, sustained influenza activity continues to be reported in South Africa and in the Southern and Western parts of Australia.
In temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, there are wide geographical variations in the level of influenza activity being reported. In Japan, influenza activity continues to increase past the seasonal epidemic threshold, indicating an early beginning to the to annual influenza season. In Canada and the United States, influenza activity remain low overall, however regional increases are being detected in the Southeastern United States. In Europe and Central and Western Asia, although little influenza activity is being reported, a few countries are reporting geographically widespread influenza activity (Austria and Israel) or an increasing trend in respiratory diseases (Netherlands and Romania).
Pandemic (H1N1) influenza virus continues to be the predominant circulating virus of influenza, both in the northern and southern hemisphere. All pandemic H1N1 2009 influenza viruses analysed to date have been antigenically and genetically similar to A/California/7/2009-like pandemic H1N1 2009 virus. See below for detailed laboratory surveillance update”.
*The information above is a copy of the latest WHO regulations and guidelines for Swine Flu and can be found in more detail at the WHO Website, here.
• There have been 61 confirmed deaths in people with swine flu in England to date. With 7 deaths in Scotland, 1 in Wales and 1 in Northern Ireland, the UK total is now 70
• The infection rate is not expected to rise again until October
• The rate of self-care using the National Pandemic Flu Service also continues to fall
• There have been a further decrease in the number of people hospitalised with swine flu
• All of these indicators remain above what is normal for the time of year
• There have been more than 2,590 deaths worldwide
• In the past seven days, the number of deaths reported globally has increased by 13%. This compares to a 21% increase in the previous week.
Last week witnessed the confirmation of which priority groups will be the first to be given the vaccine in the UK. In making the announcement, Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, said: “Although the virus has so far proved to be mild in most people, for others it has been more serious. By vaccinating high-risk groups first, we aim to protect those most vulnerable to this virus”.
The first stocks of the vaccine will be distributed to groups in the following order:
• People aged between six months and 65 years in the clinically at-risk groups for seasonal flu.
• Pregnant women, subject to licensing by the European Medicines Agency, which will indicate whether it can be given throughout pregnancy or only at certain stages of pregnancy.
• Household contacts of people with compromised immune systems.
• People aged 65 and over in the current seasonal flu vaccine clinical at-risk groups.
*The information above is a copy of the latest NHS key updates for Swine Flu and can be found in more detail at the NHS Swine Flu Website, here.
• WHO Twitter – ‘WHO's official Twitter channel. Who is the directing and coordinating authority within the UN system for public health’.
• NHS Swine Flu Overview – ‘This page brings together the latest science and developments on the swine flu pandemic into a single accessible resource for both health professionals and the general public’.
• NHS Swine Flu Vaccine – Detailed information on the development of the H1N1 vaccine, along with logistical updates on clinical trials in the U.S. and Australia, efficacy and WHO recommendations.
• The Lancet H1N1 Flu Resource Centre – With over 40 journals, Lancet is one of the leading scholarly resources on the topic of Swine Flu – if not any healthcare issue. With free, unlimited access for all, this is one powerful research resource.
• Nature – A number of interesting feature articles and blogs pertaining to the topic of Swine Flu.
• Fergus on flu – Great Swine Flu blog from the BBC’s Chief Medical Correspondent.
• Microsoft Bing Swine Flu Tracker – ‘Map of 2009 Swine Flu H1N1 outbreaks and migration paths reported from news and government agencies. The map lists reported dates and paths of infected persons traveling’.
• Facebook Group for H1N1 – With over 3,500 members – and literally hundreds of personal accounts on the current outbreak, this Facebook Group provides an interesting view into the potential future impact of Social Media on healthcare related issues.
Last updated on: 27/08/2010 11:40:18