Fear of another H1N1 influenza epidemic, also known as swine flu, has been expressed by some health experts in the UK after the country’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) confirmed that ten people have died after becoming infected over the last six weeks. The HPA confirms that the H1N1 virus is circulating again this winter.

British health authorities say that the majority of deaths occurred among people with already-existing, underlying health conditions/diseases; but not all of them. There is no news regarding what caused the deaths among the patients – their condition of the H1N1 virus, or both.

The number of H1N1-infected patients with severe symptoms is starting to grow, the HPA informs. Individuals under the age of sixty-five have a higher risk of developing complications.

Head of Respiratory Diseases at the HPA, Professor John Watson said the virus has spread more rapidly than he would have expected.

English media report that eight schools and an Army barracks have been affected by flu outbreaks this week. Some of the infections were with the H1N1 virus.

18 out of 89 cases of flu that were reported by GPs (general practitioners, primary care physicians) over the last seven days have been confirmed as H1N1 infections.

People throughout the United Kingdom are being urged to get their flu jab if they have not done so already.

For the majority of people, flu is not a life-threatening disease and lasts from seven to about ten days. However, for at-risk groups, such as the very elderly, pregnant mothers and patients with diabetes, heart problems, or lung/live/kidney diseases, as well as individuals with weakened immune systems, there is a serious risk of complications. The best protection for at-risk-individuals is to have the flu vaccination.

This seasonal flu vaccination protects against the dominant virus strains. The current one protects against three types of flu, including H1N1, otherwise known as swine flu.

Great Britain was one of the first countries hit by the swine flu pandemic which originated in Mexico last year. During its peak, over 100,000 new cases were being reported each week across the UK.

According to The Independent, 494 people died in the UK of swine flu during the pandemic. WHO (World Health Organization) declared the global pandemic over in August 2010.

Source: HPA, Dept of Health (UK)

Written by Christian Nordqvist