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Britain reports 100,000 new swine flu cases


Agence France-Presse
First Posted 08:26:00 07/24/2009

Filed Under: Swine Flu, Health, Diseases, Epidemic and Plague

LONDON ? Britain announced 100,000 new cases of swine flu Thursday, as it rolled out a new hotline that will allow the prescription of anti-viral drugs over the telephone.

At least 30 deaths have so far been linked to swine flu here, 26 in England and four in Scotland, according to the latest update from the Department of Health. The figure is unchanged on the previous week.

A further 840 people are in hospital in England, including 63 in intensive care, chief medical officer Liam Donaldson told reporters.

He described the rise in new cases -- almost double last week's figure of 55,000 -- as a "substantial increase" but stressed that the majority of patients suffered only mild symptoms.

Britain is the worst hit country in Europe by the virus, which was first identified in Mexico. It gave up attempts at containment early on and is now focusing on the best way to treat infected patients.

As the outbreak puts a huge strain on health services, health authorities in England unveiled a new dedicated service Thursday to allow diagnosis and the prescription of drugs over the Internet or by telephone.

Described by Prime Minister Gordon Brown as the first of its kind worldwide, the phone line will be manned by about 1,500 non-medical staff who will take callers through a series of questions to reach a diagnosis.

However, the most serious cases -- including pregnant women, people with health conditions and very young children -- will be referred to a doctor.

Donaldson conceded last week that the system could be abused by those who wanted to stockpile Tamiflu, but noted each user could only be diagnosed once, and added: "We have to trust in the public that they won't."

On Thursday, he explained the lack of change in the death toll since last week was due to a new analysis process, which eliminated some people previously thought to have died from the virus and added an equal number of new cases.

"It is the same numerically but some have gone in and some have gone out," Donaldson said, without giving exact numbers.

According to figures released Thursday, 16 percent of the deaths linked to the virus so far were in completely healthy people, which Donaldson described as "an encouraging figure, in that it is a minority".

About 67 percent of the deaths were in people with severe health problems such as leukemia, 11 percent with moderate conditions such as diabetes and six percent in those with mild conditions such as high blood pressure.

Young people aged under 14 continue to be hit hardest by the virus. One third of the deaths so far have been among the under 15s.



Copyright 2014 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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