Page last updated at 08:08 GMT, Friday, 2 October 2009 09:08 UK

Swine flu woman moved to England

H1N1 bacteria
Sixty-one new cases of swine flu have been detected in the past week.

A NI woman suffering from severe complications linked to swine flu has been airlifted to an English hospital for "highly specialised" treatment.

She gave birth at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald around ten days ago and needs a procedure known as Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO).

It is understood the woman's baby is well and is being cared for by family.

On Thursday, 61 new cases of swine flu were confirmed in NI, the highest weekly number to date.

GP and out of hours consultations in connection with the virus also increased, as did antiviral prescriptions.

However the health minister said he was more concerned about the rise in the number of people hospitalised with the virus, which has increased by 124%.

Michael McGimpsey also said his thoughts were with the family of the woman "at this very worrying time".

Mr McGimpsey said the hospital she has been transferred to in Leicester had the only "national ECMO unit for adults and provides these specialist services for patients across the UK".

"There are currently plans to double the capacity at the centre to ensure that we are able to respond to any increased demand arising from the swine flu pandemic," he said.

ECMO is a technique of providing both cardiac and respiratory support oxygen to patients.

HOW AN ECMO MACHINE WORKS
Graphic shows how the ECMO works
1. Blood is drained out of the body through a vein into the ECMO machine, which removes carbon dioxide and adds oxygen allowing the heart and lungs to rest

2. Blood is warmed before being returned to the heart - flow of blood out of the body is steadily reduced as patient recovers

There have now been 336 laboratory confirmed cases of swine flu in Northern Ireland since the beginning of the swine flu outbreak.

GP consultations have risen to 208 per 100,000 - the highest rate since the start of the enhanced influenza surveillance programme.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said the ongoing increase suggests "we are in a second wave".

"This is something we are monitoring closely," he said.

Republic

The latest statistics for Northern Ireland came as two deaths linked to swine flu were confirmed in the Irish Republic on Thursday.

The Health Service Executive said both of the women who died had underlying medical conditions. Their deaths bring the total number of swine flu fatalities in the Republic to four.

Michael McGimpsey said his thoughts were with the family of the woman

Speaking in relation to the rise in cases in Northern Ireland, Dr McBride said if people thought they had swine flu they should "stay at home".

"Please do not visit your GP practice, pharmacy or A&E in person," he added.

"People with underlying health conditions who are at higher risk of complications if they develop influenza should call their GP for advice and assessment for antivirals.

"This includes people with long-term conditions such as diabetes or chronic lung disease.

"In addition, pregnant women who develop flu-like symptoms should phone their GP promptly. Likewise, parents of children under five years should call their doctor if their child develops flu-like symptoms."

Commenting on the increased rate of consultations made with GPs for flu or flu-like illness, Dr McBride said the rate remained highest in the five to 14-year-old group.

To date, there have been two deaths related to swine flu in Northern Ireland.



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