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DH revises swine flu worst case scenario

By Lilian Anekwe

The Department of Health has revised its ‘worst case scenario' prediction for the number of deaths from swine flu in light of a continuing decline in the number and severity of cases.

The latest figures show the number of GP consultations fell from 16.5 per 100,000 of the population to 11.8 per 100,000 in the week ending 30 August.

4,500 new cases of swine flu were diagnosed in England in the last week, and 70 people with swine flu have died in the UK – 61 in England, seven in Scotland and one in both Wales and Northern Ireland.

The vast majority of cases ‘continue to be mild', the report by the Health Protection Agency said, and as a result the Department of Health have asked their scientific advisors to draft new ‘planning assumptions' for NHS planners.

Previous planning assumptions had predicted a worst case scenario of up to 65,000 people dying from swine flu, assuming an overall case fatality rate of 0.35%.

But the new figures, compiled by the DH's independent scientific modellers group, have reduced the overall case fatality rate to 0.1%.

The NHS should now plan for a worst case scenario of a 30% clinical attack rate and up to 19,000 deaths, chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson said.

Sir Liam said: ‘We are not scaling back our efforts. We are continuing to plan actively. It would be wrong to say that because we are making new assumptions that our strategy has changed. It hasn't – the strategy remains the right one and we will continue with caution.'

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