Swine flu is back in the UK

swine fluThe potentially deadly swine flu is back in the UK, following reports that 2 people have been hospitalised after contracting the virus, confirmed yesterday by health officials.

Both patients have been diagnosed has having the H1N1 strain of influenza, and are now being closely monitored at Wishaw General Hospital in North Lanarkshire, Scotland.

The virus was first identified in Mexico back in April 2009, and was first named ‘Mexican flu’. Mexico had 100s of non-lethal cases of the virus prior to the outbreak being officially discovered, with the country in the midst of a “silent epidemic”.

However, it later became labelled as swine flu due to the fact that the virus strikingly bore similarities to already known influenza viruses that cause illness in pigs.

The virus subsequently spread between countries, causing pandemonium as it was a new type of flu virus that barely anyone was immune to. According to the World Health Organization, there were 18,500 lab-confirmed deaths from swine flu in 2009 alone, and anywhere between 10-200 million people infected. Of the total deaths, 350 people died in the UK during the initial pandemic.

The flu jab covers the virus – which is free of charge on the NHS to people 65 years of age or over, pregnant women, those with certain medical conditions, people living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility, anyone receiving a carer’s allowance, or the main carer for an elderly or disabled person who could be at further risk if the carer was to become ill and Healthcare workers with direct patient contact or a social care worker.

Children over the age of six months with a long-term health condition and those aged two, three and four plus children in school years one and two are also recommended as having the flu jab.

Health experts have commented that the apparent emergence of the virus was ‘not unusual’ because it never truly went away in the first place.

Leading flu expert, virologist Professor John Oxford, spoke to the MailOnline yesterday and said that the virus has been ‘moving around the community this year.”

“Every year there is three to four influenza viruses but there’s nothing unusual,” he said.

“I’m sure there would have been cases last year in the UK and around Europe. I’m a bit surprised that they have announced it.

“If you have had the flu jab then you wouldn’t expect to get it or the other types of flu.”

Professor Oxford said he predicts more cases of swine flu to emerge in the coming weeks as we enter the peak of the flu season, adding that the virus could be treated with Tamiflu (oseltamivir), and stressed how the most at-risk groups were children and people with underlying health conditions, if they have not been immunised.

The two cases in Scotland only came to prominence after someone had commented about being diagnosed with the virus on social media.

Dr Femi Oshin, consultant in public health medicine at NHS Lanarkshire, said: “Although there are low levels of influenza overall this winter, H1N1, also known as swine flu, is reported to be the main flu virus circulating in the community.

“It is, therefore, to be expected that we will see some cases of H1N1 in Lanarkshire at this time.

“The seasonal influenza vaccination is the best way to protect yourself against flu, including H1N1.

“The annual flu vaccine is available free to pregnant women as well as other eligible groups including people over 65, those who have certain health conditions, healthy children aged two, three and four plus children in school years one and two, and people who work in healthcare.”

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