Swine flu rate steadies - at least for now

The swine flu virus has run out of steam - temporarily at least. The rampant spread of the infection across the country has slowed according to official figures showing 110,000 new cases last week, compared with 100,000 the week before.

After a month in which cases of swine flu have been doubling every seven days, Sir Liam Donaldson, the Government's Chief Medical Officer, said: "It is possible the virus has had its fill of us for the moment. We are probably seeing a downturn in the illness. It doesn't mean it won't peak again, or return in the autumn which we expect. We don't anticipate it staying away for long."

There were several trends indicating a downturn, Sir Liam said. Cases in children aged 5-14, who are starting their summer holidays, were sharply down. Consultations for flu-like illness with GPs dropped from 155 per 100,000 last week to 138 per 100,000, according to the Royal College of GPs Monitoring Unit. A separate network of over 3,300 GP practices monitored by QSurveillance showed consultations last Tuesday were less than a third of the consultations seen the previous Tuesday. But the picture is complicated by the launch of the National Flu Pandemic service last week which issued anti-viral drugs to 150,000 patients who contacted it online and over the phone. Sir Liam said many of those patients might never have contacted their GP but remained below the radar, and only appeared as flu "cases" because the National Flu Pandemic Service was easier to access. The illness appears to have peaked in some parts of London and the West Midlands but to be still rising in the North east, North West and South West.

There is no sign the virus is changing or becoming more virulent. Analysis shows 27 confirmed deaths associated with swine flu, one more than last week, and a reduction in the numbers hospitalised to 746, compared with 840 last week. However, there was an increase in the number in critical care to 81, up from 63 last week.

Asked why the infection had receded, Sir Liam said: "There's a climatic element to it. It is extremely unusual [to see flu] in summer. It is one of the mysteries of the way the flu virus behaves. But there is a strong feeling it will surge forward in the autumn."

For the first time, Sir Liam included details of the number of people affected in each age group. The cumulative totals show around 230,000 adults have been infected compared with 100,000 children under 15 - a ratio of over two adults to every child.

Earlier this week a report from the Lords' science and technology committee criticised the government's handling of swine flu. It called for clarity on how intensive and critical care departments will cope with high patient numbers.

Intensive care specialists had already warned that swine flu cases could overwhelm intensive care departments in England.

Ian Dalton, the National Director for NHS Flu Resilience, said he was working with the 10 Strategic Health Authorities to produce an updated critical care plan by the end of August.

"It will set out the action that has to be taken in order to increase critical care capacity. I would like to reassure people that this will build on a lot of previous planning," he said.

There has been a slight rise in swine flu cases in Scotland, with 4,300 cases in the past week.

Wales is also reporting a small rise in cases of flu-like illness with 4,410 in the past week and Northern Ireland saw 10 new cases.

The flu service is not covering the rest of the UK, as Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have all experienced much less demand.

The flu hotline number is 0800 1 513 100

Commenting on the latest pandemic plans announced today, Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: "There are early signs that the rate of increase in swine flu infections may be slowing down. This is encouraging, but there will be no let-up in our preparations. Even if the number of infections starts to fall, they may rise again, possibly much faster, as we enter the main flu season in the autumn.

"There are two key areas; critical care and vaccination strategy, where we need to finalise our plans to ensure that we are on a sound footing going into Autumn.

"On critical care, work has been ongoing within the NHS to plan for how to manage the service in the main flu season. Today, I've asked Ian Dalton, the National Director for NHS Flu Resilience, to work with the 10 Strategic Health Authorities to produce a Critical Care Plan for the NHS by the end of next month. This will draw upon the excellent work the Health Service has already done and will set out the actions they need to take to increase the number of critical care beds, ready for the autumn.

"By the end of August, we will also publish a vaccination plan that will include decisions on priority groups and the method of delivery. "We already have plans in place to cope with a second wave of swine flu. We have enough Tamiflu for everyone who needs it and we are first in line for the vaccine. The National Pandemic Flu Service is up and running and is taking pressure off GPs and NHS Direct leaving them free to deal with other patients most in need. "The NHS is doing an excellent job and I want to thank NHS staff for their hard work and dedication."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

    Junior Database developer (SQL, T-SQL, Excel, SSRS)

    £20000 - £30000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Junior D...

    Helpdesk Team Leader / Manager

    £45000 per annum + pension,medical: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable gl...

    IT Systems Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition
    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born