Saturday, September 26, 2009

Swine flu cases almost double

Schools across the country have seen new outbreaks of swine flu as children returned to lessons this month, Government officials said.

Liam Donaldson - Swine flu second wave starting as 66 schools suffer outbreaks in first weeks of autumn term
Liam Donaldson - Swine flu second wave starting as 66 schools suffer outbreaks in first weeks of autumn term Photo: ANDREW CROWLEY
There have been 66 reported outbreaks of the H1N1 virus in schools in England since the end of the summer holidays, Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer said.
In total there have been an estimated 9,000 new cases of the disease last week, almost double the previous week's total showing that the disease is now rising again, he said.
Sir Liam said the H1N1 vaccines are expected to be licensed soon by the European regulators and that he would have 'preferred more breathing space' before cases started to rise this Autumn in order to get the immunisation programme in place.
Pregnant women, health and social care workers, people aged between six months and 65 years who have underlying health conditions and people living with patients who have compromised immune system will be vaccinated this year.
Early trials show that one dose may be effective but early data from tests in children suggest they may still require two doses for a full immune response, Dr David Salisbury, head of the Immunisation at the Department of Health said.
The World Health Organisation announced that several countries including Australia, China, Hungary and the US have already licensed vaccines for the pandemic strain of H1N1.
Japan and several countries in Europe will shortly follow, according to the WHO.
Dr Salisbury said other countries have different licensing procedures and other vaccines which has meant they have been approved earlier.
Sir Liam added that in some areas swine flu cases have risen at a slower rate than during the first wave in July and some test results suggest that a larger number of children may have been infected earlier this year but not shown symptoms.
This has given them some protection and they are not falling ill now.
The largest number of school outbreaks has been in Yorkshire and Humber, with 27 outbreaks, but Sir Liam said this is probably because the data collection there has been more stringent.
He added that were 'probably more (outbreaks) than that , that we have not heard about'.
The number of pupils infected in an outbreak will vary and it is not known how many children in total are involved in those outbreaks. Schools are not being closed any more when an outbreak occurs as officials say this causes disruption and does little to slow the spread.

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