Page last updated at 17:20 GMT, Friday, 17 July 2009 18:20 UK

Woman gave birth before flu death

Ruptara Miah's brother Abdul Malik says he is shocked by her death

A 39-year-old woman gave birth shortly before dying with swine flu, the BBC understands.

Ruptara Miah died in London's Whipps Cross Hospital on 13 July. Her baby is said to be very ill in intensive care.

Meanwhile, a baby under six months old, who died in another London hospital, is also among the latest victims of swine flu in the UK.

Both are thought to have had underlying health conditions and were among the 29 deaths announced on Thursday.

Ms Miah's brother Abdul Malik said: "We are very, very upset as a family. It has really taken me by shock."

Ms Miah used a wheelchair after a road accident 15 years ago.

Her brother said she was admitted to hospital three weeks ago with a cough and chest infection.

He said his sister was treated in intensive care, where she gave birth to a son prematurely, but never regained full consciousness.

There has been a surge of infections recently with an estimated 55,000 cases in the past week alone.

Doctors have criticised the government for not doing enough to reassure people.

British Medical Association GP leader Dr Laurence Buckman said people were "scared stiff" when they did not need to be.

Dr Buckman said swine flu for most was a nasty but relatively mild illness, however he said people were panicking and swamping doctors with calls.

The government has been forced to launch the National Pandemic Flu Service in England after a surge in requests for information and consultations in the NHS.

People with lung disease
People with heart disease
People with kidney disease
People with diabetes
Those with immunosuppression problems either because of treatment or disease
Patients who have had drug treatment for asthma
Pregnant women
Children under five

The web and phone service, which will be able to dispense anti-flu drugs will go live by the end of next week.

It will not cover Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as demand for services is not as high there, but they will be able to opt in if they need to.

Ministers said it should relieve the pressure on the NHS in England.

Every region of England has seen a dramatic rise in demand over the last seven days with all areas except Yorkshire and the Humber reporting "exceptional" levels of activity.

GPs have been particularly hard hit with the weekly flu consultation rates now above winter levels with some surgeries seeing demand at twice and even three times the epidemic level.

Professor Steve Fields: "We're getting a lot of phone calls from people who are anxious or worried"

But Dr Buckman said: "The problem is that we have 60m people who are scared stiff. Certainly there is a risk, but for most people it is the fear rather than a reality.

"The mortality rate is pretty similar to seasonal flu, although it is hitting younger age groups. For most it will be a nasty, but relatively mild illness.

"But we are getting so much information that people are getting worried.

"The risk is that people who are ill do not get through and that includes people who have not got the flu, but have diabetes, heart disease or asthma. That would be disastrous."

And there are already signs this may be happening. A 17-year-old from Chesterfield was diagnosed with swine flu by a doctor, but after deteriorating a few days later was admitted to hospital with meningitis.

'Headlines not helped'

Dr Buckman said he was not suggesting the government should not be open with the data, but that officials should be stressing the mild nature of the illness more.

But he also said the media had a responsibility to handle information responsibly. "Some of the newspaper headlines have not helped."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The chief medical officer has consistently reiterated that it is a mild illness for many. He has said that every single time.

"We have tried to be open and honest and put it in context all the time we have given information."

Tower Hamlets - 759 flu consultations per 100,000
City and Hackney - 392
Islington - 306
Newham - 293
Luton - 272
Epidemic levels are classed as 200

Meanwhile, NHS London also sought to reassure people about the most recent deaths.

As well as the baby who died at the Royal Free Hospital and the 39-year-old mother, a 70-year-old man died at Royal London Hospital as well as another patient at St Thomas' Hospital.

Dr Simon Tanner, regional director of public health at NHS London, said: "We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to each of the families affected at this very difficult time.

"It is also important that these deaths be kept in perspective.

"All four had underlying health conditions and these upsetting cases should be kept in context with the many people who have had swine flu and recovered just a few days after experiencing a mild illness."


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