Swine flu has killed 70 in England already and may return stronger this winter.
3rd November 2010
Researchers led by the Government's former Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, found children from Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities were hardest hit. Those with pre-existing conditions - especially neurological diseases such as cerebral palsy - were also at higher risk. But a fifth of the young people who died were previously healthy. The findings - published in the medical journal The Lancet - cover the period from June 2009 to March 2010. Professor Donaldson told Sky News the higher death rate among ethnic minorities was an "unexpected finding", but mirrored similar studies in the USA. Mortality rates for Bangladeshi children (47 deaths per million population) and Pakistani children (36 deaths per million) were much higher than for white English children (four deaths per million). Professor Donaldson said: "Most authorities think that the virus that causes the pandemic will come back this winter as the seasonal flu virus. "But we don't know whether or not it will behave in the same way as it did as the pandemic virus, in other words tending to affect young people and also cause quite serious illness among healthy people." The death toll from swine flu among children was higher than the rate for leukeamia, the report found. It recommended that all children should be vaccinated against swine flu, especially those in high-risk groups. The disease broke out first in Mexico in April 2009 before spreading to 74 countries. The World Health Organisation declared a swine flu pandemic two months later. Overall, 64% of UK children were vaccinated with antiviral drug Tamiflu and a vaccine was developed. But the pandemic - the first for 40 years - proved far less deadly than many had feared. "Yes maybe we could have saved some money if we had taken a more measured approach," said Professor Donaldson. "But on the other hand by putting in place our full blown plan we saved a lot of lives that would have otherwise been lost."