Pregnant women urged to have flu vaccination

DOCTORS warned last night that Britain was facing a major health alert as 11 people in the region were confirmed critically ill with swine flu.

Medical experts are concerned because the return of swine flu has coincided with a drop in the number of people taking free vaccinations – down by 15 per cent in October.

About a million people in the North-East are entitled to the vaccination, which protects against swine flu.

Although last year’s swine flu pandemic is officially over, H1N1 is still circulating in the population, along with other flu viruses.

Some of the victims fighting for their lives in the North- East have existing medical conditions and could have avoided the virus if they had been vaccinated.

Last night, North-East health officials said it was vital that all at-risk patients received the vaccine as soon as possible.

So far, 14 of the 17 UK deaths this flu season have involved swine flu. All were under 65 and six were under 18.

Last year’s pandemic claimed seven lives in the North-East.

Some experts have called for the reintroduction of swine flu critical care planning groups, set up at the height of the pandemic last year, to deal with the latest crisis.

Dr George Rae, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) in the North-East, said: “It is looking as if it could be worse than last year.

It is happening again and things could start to get out of hand.”

He said the flu jab was “one hundred per cent safe” and urged people in the at-risk groups to contact their GPs.

The BMA said it was deeply concerned that a major flu crisis is brewing.

Dr Lawrence Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s GPs Committee, has written to the Government urging it to step up the public awareness campaign for seasonal flu immunisation.

Two of the 11 critically ill North-East patients are being kept alive by an advanced artificial lung machine known as ECMO (Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation).

Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital’s ECMO unit, which is one of a handful in the country, is normally used to treat children with lung failure.

But because of the increased numbers of seriously ill flu patients the Newcastle Hospitals Trust has adapted the paediatric unit so it can treat adults.

ECMO treatment involves the artificial oxygenation of the blood for an average of 17 days to allow the patient’s lungs to recover from the illness.

A spokesman for the trust said they were treating two adult flu patients on the unit.

Earlier this week, Dr Richard Firmin, director of the UK’s main ECMO centre, in Leicester, said they were very busy, busier than last year with 15 ECMO beds open across the UK, compared with 12 at the peak of last year’s pandemic.

Health Protection Agency figures show that so far this season, 17 patients have needed ECMO treatment. All of them were adults under 65 and four were pregnant women.

Dr Tricia Cresswell, deputy medical director at NHS North-East, said: “We’re very concerned about the number of people being admitted to hospital with serious complications from flu, who are critically ill.

“Reassuringly, levels of flu in the general community remain quite low and most people recover well. However, for those with chronic health problems and for pregnant women, there is a risk of more serious illness.

“We’re urging all those at risk – especially pregnant women and young people with long-term health conditions – to get vaccinated against flu as a matter of urgency – please don’t be complacent.”

People who qualify for the free NHS seasonal flu vaccine include all frontline health and social care workers, pregnant women not previously protected from swine flu, everyone aged 65 or over and anyone who has a serious chronic illness or condition.

Comments (4)

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10:05am Sat 18 Dec 10

foss says...

This story doesn't make sense.

First you tell us that "medical experts are concerned because the return of swine flu has coincided with a drop in the number of people taking free vaccinations".

Then you tell us that "14 of the 17 UK deaths this flu season have involved swine flu. All were under 65 and six were under 18".

Then you end by saying that "people who qualify for the free flu vaccine include pregnant women, everyone aged 65 or over and anyone who has a serious chronic illness or condition."

None of the 14 people who died seemed to fall into any of these categories so they wouldn't even have been able to get the free vaccinations!
This story doesn't make sense. First you tell us that "medical experts are concerned because the return of swine flu has coincided with a drop in the number of people taking free vaccinations". Then you tell us that "14 of the 17 UK deaths this flu season have involved swine flu. All were under 65 and six were under 18". Then you end by saying that "people who qualify for the free flu vaccine include pregnant women, everyone aged 65 or over and anyone who has a serious chronic illness or condition." None of the 14 people who died seemed to fall into any of these categories so they wouldn't even have been able to get the free vaccinations! foss

10:55am Sat 18 Dec 10

bettysenior says...

With the present vaccine strategy we shall never defeat human-to-human killer pandemic viruses. For there is not enough lead-time by far according to last year’s swine flu outbreak and we shall all be well dead by the time we received any new vaccine that has been refined to nullify yet another mutated strain. (for the human-to-human killer strains are mutating all the time). We have therefore to move to a 'preventative' strategy from a reactive strategy (let it happen and then we will 'try' to cure it). Otherwise hundreds of millions will die and far more than up to the 100 million that died from the Spanish human killer Flu worldwide in 1918/19. Vaccines should be our secondary line of defence, not our first line of defence presently. We have therefore for our own good to address the killer viruses as source and 'never let them happen in the first place - http://avian-influen
za.cirad.fr/content/
download/1931/11789/
file/Kennedy-F-Short
ridge.pdf

Dr David Hill
Executive Director
World Innovation Foundation Charity
Bern, Switzerland
With the present vaccine strategy we shall never defeat human-to-human killer pandemic viruses. For there is not enough lead-time by far according to last year’s swine flu outbreak and we shall all be well dead by the time we received any new vaccine that has been refined to nullify yet another mutated strain. (for the human-to-human killer strains are mutating all the time). We have therefore to move to a 'preventative' strategy from a reactive strategy (let it happen and then we will 'try' to cure it). Otherwise hundreds of millions will die and far more than up to the 100 million that died from the Spanish human killer Flu worldwide in 1918/19. Vaccines should be our secondary line of defence, not our first line of defence presently. We have therefore for our own good to address the killer viruses as source and 'never let them happen in the first place - http://avian-influen za.cirad.fr/content/ download/1931/11789/ file/Kennedy-F-Short ridge.pdf Dr David Hill Executive Director World Innovation Foundation Charity Bern, Switzerland bettysenior

9:30pm Sat 18 Dec 10

CjR86 says...

Well.. it doesnt make any difference.. I had the swine flu jab.. I went on to still get swine flu Oct 09 .. and then I have just got over a second helping of it (which has taken over a month..) so what was the point in having the jab???
Well.. it doesnt make any difference.. I had the swine flu jab.. I went on to still get swine flu Oct 09 .. and then I have just got over a second helping of it (which has taken over a month..) so what was the point in having the jab??? CjR86

6:08pm Sun 19 Dec 10

enslow says...

'“Reassuringly, levels of flu in the general community remain quite low and most people recover well."'

This is not reasuring at all, it suggests the flu is more virulent!
'“Reassuringly, levels of flu in the general community remain quite low and most people recover well."' This is not reasuring at all, it suggests the flu is more virulent! enslow

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