Page last updated at 16:18 GMT, Thursday, 3 December 2009

New infections of swine flu 'on the way down'

Girl blowing nose
Children have been partly hard hit by the swine flu virus

The number of new cases of swine flu has halved in England amid signs the second peak of the pandemic is petering out, latest figures show.

There were 22,000 infections over the past seven days compared to 46,000 the week before, the government said.

To put that in context, the levels of flu being reported now are comparable to what has been seen in past winters.

But there are still 1,000 people in hospital in the UK and the death toll has reached 270.

This is in line with government estimates that there may be up to 1,000 this winter.

The first peak of the pandemic was in July when there were over 100,000 cases a week, which was followed by a drop and then a second rise during the autumn.

In Scotland, it is estimated that around 12.300 people have contracted swine flu in the past week, compared to just over 21,000 the week before.

In Wales and Northern Ireland the figure is much lower.

Progress

Sir Liam Donaldson, the government's chief medical officer, said the figures represented a "striking reduction", but it was still "too early" to know whether the downward trend would continue.

He pointed out there could be a surge in cases among older adults after Christmas - children have been the worst hit so far.

The government also reported progress being made with the vaccination programme - although it remains to be seen whether the NHS can get the first wave completed in time for Christmas as expected.

There have now been 1.6m doses given in England, a rise of 600,000 in the past week.

However, there are more than 9m people in the priority group, which includes those with health problems and pregnant women.

The first figures have also been given for healthcare workers.

The Department of Health said 275,000 had had the jab out of nearly 2m. The figure is double the number that were given the seasonal flu vaccine last year.

Graph showing the number of swine flu deaths in the UK



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