Page last updated at 16:31 GMT, Thursday, 29 October 2009

'Further rise' in swine flu cases

By Nick Triggle
Health reporter, BBC News

Sir Liam Donaldson: "It's a very serious illness for many younger people"

There has been a further rise in swine flu infections, latest figures show.

The number of new cases in England has increased from 53,000 last week to 78,000. In Scotland, it went up by more than 5,000 to nearly 20,000.

The numbers are still short of the peak seen in the summer, but there are signs patients are becoming sicker with hospitals under more pressure.

Meanwhile, the death toll has reached 137 across the UK - up nine from last week's total.

It comes as the vaccination programme has just got under way.

Over the next two months nearly 14m of the most vulnerable people, including those with health problems and pregnant women, will be getting the jab.

But even with the roll out of the immunisation programme the NHS has still be told to brace itself for surge in cases over the winter.

Growing demand

As many as 12% of the population are predicted to get the virus in the coming months - although for children it could be as high as one in three.

Sir Liam Donaldson, the government's chief medical officer, said hospitals were being tested the most at the moment.

There has been growing demand on critical care beds in recent weeks with over 150 patients on intensive care wards in England alone.

That represents one in five of the patients who end up in hospital - double the rate being registered in the initial months of the pandemic.

Sir Liam added: "The rise is sticking with the slow-burn scenario we have been seeing, but there could be a sustained pressure on the NHS this winter."

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