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'Quarter of flu cases are genuine swine flu' as death toll jumps to 14

By Lilian Anekwe

One in every four cases of influenza-like illnesses currently being diagnosed by GPs is actually a genuine case of swine flu, the Government has revealed.

At a Department of Health briefing earlier today, chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson said the Government's surveillance suggested that only 28% of patients diagnosed by GPs with influenza-like illness were confirmed as having swine flu by virological sampling.

The remaining 72% either had a different strain of the flu virus, or did not have influenza at all.

It comes as the Government said that a total of 14 people in the UK are now thought to have died from swine flu. At least 335 patients have needed hospital treatment, with 43 still in a 'critical condition'.

The latest surveillance report complied from the RCGP's research and surveillance centre shows weekly consultation rates for influenza-like illnesses are at 51.9 per 100,000 of the population – which puts general practice above the threshold for normal seasonal flu activity.

This equates to around 27,000 consultations in England in the week ending July 5 – of which 7,560 were confirmed as swine flu.

But Sir Liam insisted the numbers were ‘the tip of the iceberg' and defended the DH from accusations of scaremongering levelled by GPs leaders including Dr Michelle Drage and Dr Sam Everington, who told Pulse exclusively yesterday that the severity of swine flu had been ‘ratcheted up' by the CMO and the Government.

‘I don't think it's fair to accuse us of scaremongering', Sir Liam said. ‘We need to alert people that this is a serious problem but at the same time reassure them that this is a minor illness. But I would rather be accused of an over-proportionate response and worrying too much than being too cavalier.'

‘More than 300 people are in hospital and we have had some deaths. We have to get away from the idea that because the deaths have been in people with underlying disease we should be falsely reassured. There are a lot of people with chronic illness and even young and healthy people can develop serious complications.'

Ian Dalton, the national director of flu resilience, also announced the Government were hastily drafting an ‘NHS pressure rating' to reflect the burden swine flu was placing on NHS resources.

‘At the moment this is a disease that is significant more prevalent in some areas than others. There are large parts of the country that have been relatively unaffected so far and so we need a graduated and flexible approach that reflects the pressure on hospital services and primary care services by locality.'

The Department of Health believes a quarter of suspected cases are geniune swine flu The Department of Health believes a quarter of suspected cases are geniune swine flu

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