Page last updated at 17:31 GMT, Thursday, 5 November 2009

Two further NI swine flu deaths

Woman sneezing
Swine flu figures are now released once a week

Two swine flu-related deaths have been reported in N Ireland in the last week, the Department of Health has confirmed.

One was a nine-year-old girl who had underlying health problems. The other, a 65-year-old woman, was described as having serious health complications.

Health authorities in the Republic have confirmed another four deaths in the past week bringing the total deaths over the border from swine flu to 14.

Twelve people from NI have died after contracting the virus.

Ten of those deaths occurred in Northern Ireland, while one person died in England and another in Spain.

The latest Northern Ireland figures show that there were 215 new cases of laboratory confirmed swine flu during the past week, bringing the total number since the beginning of the outbreak to 1,093.

The number of people hospitalised has increased by 12% in the last week, but the number of people contacting GPs with flu symptoms is down 21%.

WEEKLY NI SWINE FLU FIGURES
Anti-viral prescriptions up 11% to 2,837
12% increase in hospitalisations to 85 in past week
GP consultations for "flu and flu-like illness" down 21%
Out-of-hours calls decreased by 2%
Age group worst affected still five to 14-year-olds but symptoms are relatively minor

The actual number of cases is likely to be much higher as doctors no longer routinely test for the virus.

The total number of people hospitalised with swine flu now stands at 495.

There were nine more admissions in the last week compared to the week before.

However, there has been a substantial decrease in a key indicator of how the virus is spreading.

'Encouraging'

GP consultations for "flu and flu-like illness" have decreased by 21% and the number of people contacting out-of-hours services with symptoms is also down very slightly.

Northern Ireland's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride said the decrease "may be partly due to half-term holidays" and cautioned that it was too soon to say whether the peak has been reached.

"There are minor fluctuations but what we're looking for is a sustained trend," he said.

"The decrease is certainly encouraging but it's early days yet and we wouldn't want to over-interpret the figures."

Details of swine flu-related deaths are now only released once a week.

Earlier this week, the chair of the NI Assembly's health committee criticised the Department of Health's new policy.

A swine-flu vaccination programme has begun with priority given to people most at risk of developing complications, including children in special needs schools, pregnant women and patients with underlying health problems.

Dr McBride said the vaccine uptake among pregnant women was particularly encouraging.

"Somewhere in the region of 5,000 pregnant women have had the vaccine in the first week of the programme - that's one-third of all women booked into the antenatal programme," he said.



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