Latest swine flu outlook for Brighton and Hove

Posted On 15 Nov 2009 at 10:45 pm

The threat of swine flu in Brighton and Hove has receded slightly.

But local health experts are still meeting each week with the approach of the annual winter flu season when the number of cases is expected to rise.

The forecast for deaths from swine flu have been revised downward to about 1,000 nationally.

Locally, while no figure is given in a new report, the numbers seem likely to be minimal.

Peter Wilkinson, Brighton and Hove’s Deputy Director of Public Health and Flu Director for the city, has prepared the report for a meeting on Tuesday.

The report, to Brighton and Hove City Primary Care Trust (PCT) board, says that the “peak clinical attack rate” could be up to 2.5 per cent of the population per week nationally.

Locally it suggests a figure of 3 per cent of the population per week. This is about 75,000 people across Brighton and Hove.

Based on the worst case scenario anticipated by the Department of Health, Mr Wilkinson believes that the peak week locally could see:

  • 6,500 cases of swine flu
  • 1,400 swine flu sufferers seeing their GP
  • 30 sufferers admitted to hospital
  • 5 people needing critical care.

At present the national consultation rates for flu are just above the normal winter baseline levels.

Mr Wilkinson is leading the effort to co-ordinate local organisations where staff will be expected to handle any surge in the number of swine flu cases.

These include the South East Coast Ambulance Service, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (which runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital and the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital), Brighton and Hove Children and Young People’s Trust, Brighton and Hove City Council Social Services, South Downs Health NHS Trust, the Sussex Partnership NHS Trust and the South East Coast Strategic Health Authority (SHA).

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust has highlighted three risk areas:

  • the provision of intensive care facilities for children in the South East (older children may have to be treated on adult wards)
  • the need to suspend operating standards at the peak of a pandemic and
  • the lack of extra funding.

Several local organisations took part in a “dry run”, practising how they would handle a second pandemic wave after the first one which peaked in late July.

The exercise – called Peak Practice – was held on Friday 25 September. As a result the PCT has recruited more than 20 outside staff to work at collection points for flu medication. They are being trained and are being placed on standby at “zero notice”.

The PCT has also begun refresher training for 40 staff as a result of exercise Peak Practice.

The priority groups for vaccines among patients are:

  1. anyone from six months old to 65 years old in the current seasonal flu vaccine clinical at-risk groups
  2. all pregnant women, subject to certain medical restrictions
  3. the families and carers of people with immune system problems
  4. people aged 65 and over in the current seasonal flu vaccine clinical at-risk groups.

The vaccines will be given mostly at doctors’ surgeries in a scheme being funded by the Government. GP surgeries began receiving vaccines last month. Frontline medical staff should receive the vaccine from their employers.

The PCT is sending swine flu updates to local GP surgeries three times a week.

Mr Wilkinson will give the latest swine flu numbers verbally at the meeting on Tuesday.

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