Risk groups warned over UK flu deaths


PREGNANT WOMEN and those with chronic conditions such as lung and heart disease have been urged to get this year’s flu vaccine after a number of swine flu-related deaths in the UK in recent weeks.

It was confirmed on Saturday that 10 people had died from the H1N1 virus in the UK over the past six weeks. Its Health Protection Agency said the 10 deaths had occurred in adults under the age of 65, most of whom had underlying health issues.

Dr Darina O’Flanagan, director of the Republic’s national Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said there had been only a couple of laboratory-confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus so far this winter. No deaths have been reported.

“Flu is at low levels here but the fact that it has been increasing in the UK would indicate that we should be prepared for it to start increasing here too,” she said.

She said there was no evidence so far the H1N1 virus had changed since the last flu season, but Ireland would be watching very closely what happened in Britain, where there have been a number of outbreaks in schools.

The fact that most of those who died in the UK recently had underlying health issues “would suggest the groups that were ill last year may again succumb this year if they haven’t received their vaccine”. She advised those at risk to get this year’s vaccine, which contains protection against H1N1.

Those at risk include pregnant women and patients with heart problems, diabetes or lung, liver or renal diseases, or those who have weak immune systems.