Page last updated at 16:29 GMT, Friday, 21 August 2009 17:29 UK

Wales and NI cases lift flu toll

Antiviral collection point
The government's antiviral policy has been questioned

The number of UK deaths associated with swine flu has risen to 61, after the first fatalities were confirmed in Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Welsh Assembly said a 55-year-old woman died in hospital in Cardiff on Saturday with cardiac-related problems after being diagnosed with the virus.

Another woman with underlying health issues died in Northern Ireland on Thursday, health officials said.

However, the estimated number of new weekly cases in England has fallen.

The Department of Health said on Thursday there were now thought to be 11,000 infections - compared to more than 100,000 at the beginning of the month.

But experts still said a second - and perhaps worse - peak could happen during the winter.

'Good recovery'

Meanwhile, the government's policy of offering antiviral drugs to everyone with the virus has been called into question following new advice from the World Health Organisation.

The body said drugs, such as Tamiflu, should only be used in patients who are severely ill or those in high-risk groups including the under fives and pregnant women.

Most patients infected with the pandemic virus continued to experience typical influenza symptoms and fully recovered within a week, even without any medical treatment, it said.

The UK has stockpiled enough antivirals - the mainstay of treatment until a vaccine becomes available - to cover half the population.

They are being offered in England to anyone who has the symptoms of swine flu - in many cases through the national pandemic flu helpline.

The UK government said it was taking a "safety first" approach by offering antivirals to everyone.

But a spokesman for the Department of Health said it would be keeping the policy under review.

NHS Direct can be contacted on 0845 4647.

Consultation rates for flu-like illness

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