Page last updated at 15:51 GMT, Thursday, 9 July 2009 16:51 UK

UK swine flu death toll hits 14

Swine flu test
Thousands of people in the UK have now caught swine flu

Fourteen patients are now thought to have died in the UK after contracting swine flu, the government has said.

Not all of those had died as a direct result of swine flu, but they had all had the virus, England's chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson said.

There are 335 people in hospital in England with swine flu, of whom 43 are in critical care.

The number of swine flu cases in London and the West Midlands is approaching epidemic levels, Sir Liam added.

The UK now has the third highest number of swine flu cases in the world - 9,718 - after the US and Mexico.

As of Wednesday, Mexico had 10,262 cases, and there were 33,902 confirmed cases in the US.

Of the 14 deaths in the UK, 12 have occurred in England and two in Scotland

Sir Liam said the true number of people in the UK suffering from the virus was unknown, as many people would be treating themselves at home rather than contacting their GP.

Natural deaths

"We do have to remain cautious, the virus may change or mutate, but as it stands at the moment, it's not a severe illness for most people but some people can get it very severely," he said.

"That's why getting a vaccine in place is vitally important."

Various methods are being used to evaluate the number of cases, including laboratory testing on sample groups and monitoring of some GP practices and the number of calls received by NHS Direct.

The Ministry of Justice has announced that there will not be any inquests into the deaths of two people who died after contracting swine flu, as it was not necessary for coroners to hold inquests into deaths linked to the virus.

"There's no requirement to hold an inquest into a natural death," a spokeswoman said.

"Deaths from swine flu would be regarded by coroners as natural."

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