Swine flu lull after dramatic fall in cases

The number of people with symptoms of swine flu has fallen dramatically in the past week with growing signs that the recent outbreak may have peaked ahead of an expected second wave of infections later this year.



Official figures released yesterday show that the weekly consultation rate between doctors and patients suffering from flu-like infections has fallen almost to normal levels but government scientists warned that this is likely to be a temporary lull before a second outbreak occurs after schools re-open in September.

The Health Protection Agency estimated that there were about 30,000 new cases of swineflu last week compared with more than 100,000 cases a week at the peak of the summer outbreak. However, it emphasised that there are large uncertainties in the estimates, with the true figure for last week lying anywhere between 15,000 and 85,000 new cases.

Last week also saw a sharp decline in the number of people with swineful symptoms seeking consultations with GPs, with the weekly average running at 42 consultations per 100,000 people, just above the normal "baseline" of 30 consultations per 100,000.

The decline in consultation rates occurred in all age groups and in all NHS primary care trusts in all regions of the country. No primary care trust reported an increase in the weekly rate of people seeing their GPs because of flu-like symptoms.

The total number of people with swineful who have died in England rose from 27 to 36 but Sir Liam Donaldson, the Government's Chief Medical Officer, said that not all of the extra deaths occurred last week because of delays in reporting the figures and that nothing significant could be read into the extra nine reported deaths.

"All the trends are indicating a further downward movement" in the number of people infected with the H1N1 swineflu virus and there are no signs that the virus is evolving into a more severe disease or becoming resistant to the anti-viral drugs being distributed to combat the infection, Sir Liam said.

However, experts believe that a second wave of infections is highly likely later in the year, probably after children return to school at the end of the summer holidays, when the virus will have the opportunity to spread further. "We are pretty certain a second wave will come, but we're not clear when this will be," Sir Liam said.

The Government will continue to plan for a mass vaccination campaign when a vaccine become available, despite signs that the infection is relatively mild in the vast majority of people who get infected. "If you abandon this [mass vaccination] then you take the view that it's acceptable that a substantial number of people will die," Sir Liam said.

Scientists at the Health Protection Agency's Respiratory Virus Unit in Collindale, north London, have now analysed 607 samples of H1N1 virus for signs of drug resistance and none were found to be positive. A further 110 specimens were all found to be susceptible to Tamiflu and Relenza, the two anti-virals stockpiled by the Government.

Meanwhile, there are signs that the virus is spreading in the southern hemisphere, at the height of its winter flu season. Deaths have almost doubled in Argentina and they have also risen sharply again in Mexico, which may be entering a second wave of the epidemic - the first country to do so.

Sir Liam said that the Government is also closely monitoring the situation in Australia where there has been more than 24,000 confirmed cases of swineful and nearly 80 deaths, with 422 people with swineflu currently hospitalised and 117 of them in intensive care.

In Britain there has been a fall in hospitalisations in all age groups suffering from swineflu, with the biggest decline occurring in children under the age of five. There has also been a decline in the number of people seeking medical advice from the National Pandemic Flu Service, a helpline designed to give guidance on whether people need to take anti-viral drugs.

Sir Liam said that there are no plans to disband the helpline even if the decline continues - although it may be scaled down - because it will almost certainly be required later in the year when the second wave is expected.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
World Book Day
News
people
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Life and Style
love + sex
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Production Planner - Night Shift

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A leading Leicestershire based chilled food ma...

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant - ACCA, ACA or ACMA - Construction Sector

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant (ACCA, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executive - PR and Broadcast - OTE £35,000

    £16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has an exciting op...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor - Shifts

    £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This European market leader for security...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot