Tenth life is lost to swine flu in Scotland
H1N1 strain is becoming 'predominant' as cases almost double in a week
Friday 02 October 2009
Swine flu cases have almost doubled in the past week and have claimed their 10th fatality in Scotland.
It is estimated that in the past week, almost 13,800 people have contracted swine flu, compared with 7,000 the previous week.
The H1N1 bug was said by Harry Burns, Scotland's chief medical officer, to be "elbowing out" seasonal flu as the predominant strain. But, he said, while swine flu is most likely to affect the young, seasonal flu is is more of a problem among the elderly.
"It's very important that we continue with the seasonal flu vaccination, because if this virus is affecting young people, seasonal flu tends to affect old people – we need to make sure both of them are protected," he said. "We need to get both vaccination programmes going to make sure we are not hit by both viruses at either end of the spectrum."
The 10th person to die in Scotland after contracting swine flu was a 62-year-old woman from the Forth Valley area. She is said to have had underlying health problems. Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish health secretary, said as the latest patient numbers were made public: "H1N1 is now really becoming the predominant strain of flu that's circulating in Scotland.
Patient numbers are thought to be more accurate than they were earlier in the year, because a new method of counting has been introduced. The total was based on data from 732 GP practices – equal to 71 per cent of Scotland's total – whereas previously the Scottish Government's weekly updates were based on 58 practices.
Yesterday's figures, announced by Ms Sturgeon at a briefing held at St Andrew's House in Edinburgh, showed a 7 per cent increase in GP consultations for flu-like illness, equal to 103.7 people per 100,000.
The number of samples testing positive for swine flu increased from 17.6% to 34.1%.
Ms Sturgeon added: "We are not unique here – the increases that we are seeing this week, which build on a steady increase over the last three or four weeks, are being mirrored in all other parts of the UK. Northern Ireland has seen an even more dramatic increase this week – their consultation rates are now above 200 per 100,000."
Health officials said a patient from Lanarkshire who had been sent for specialist treatment in England was now in Glasgow Royal Infirmary.
The patient underwent a specialist procedure called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (Ecmo), where blood is circulated outside the body and oxygen added artificially. Another Scottish patient in hospital in Ibiza is "making good progress".
The European Commission has now licensed the GSK vaccine – one of two which will be used in the UK – and it will start to be delivered over the next few weeks, putting Scotland on track for its planned vaccination programme later this month.
Priority is to be given to vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women and healthcare workers, and by the end of the year is expected to reach 1.4 million people. The seasonal flu campaign begins on Monday.
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