Swine flu 'won't be as bad as feared'

THE impact of swine flu in Suffolk over the next six months is likely to be less severe than initially feared, heath bosses have said.

Anthony Bond

THE impact of swine flu in Suffolk over the next six months is likely to be less severe than initially feared, heath bosses have said.

In a report which will go before NHS Suffolk on Wednesday, Dr Brian Keeble, the director of pandemic response, said swine flu will be an addition to normal winter pressures on the NHS rather than the main cause of those pressures.

However, he warned that acute hospitals such as Ipswich Hospital and the West Suffolk Hospital are likely to be under pressure.

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Dr Keeble said: “Pressures are most likely to be felt by our acute hospitals, where the combination of our usual winter pressures with the addition of swine flu cases may cause extra pressures on both general hospital and intensive care beds.”

The report says that the number of people contracting swine flu has continued to increase in Suffolk over the autumn but levels have not reached those experienced in July 2009.

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It says that a further surge in cases was anticipated this autumn following children's return to school but, although there has been a steady increase since September, there has not been the marked acceleration in infection rates that might have been expected.

Dr Keeble said: “At the time of writing (mid November) infection levels are, as far as we can tell, still below those witnessed in July and well below those of the last local seasonal flu epidemic in 1999/2000.”

The report warned that flu pandemics are “notoriously difficult” to predict but said, according to recent Government planning assumptions, there will be 10 deaths from swine flu in the county to late spring 2010.

It also said that 340 people will need admission to hospital with 50 people needing to go into intensive care.

Last night, Dr Keeble told the EADT: “Numbers of people using the National Pandemic Flu Service and collecting anti-viral medication has been fairly level over the past two weeks, which may indicate a plateau in numbers of cases - but we are not complacent as we haven't yet seen any decrease in cases.

“Seasonal flu is also circulating in the community, so it's important that people get themselves vaccinated against both the seasonal and swine flu viruses. If you are eligible for the swine flu vaccine, your GP will contact you. And of course, everyone can do their bit to prevent the spread of swine flu, simply by washing their hands properly and regularly, especially before eating.”

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