U.K. swine flu death toll rises

Three deaths in the last week in the United Kingdom have increased this season’s swine flu death toll to 20, while a health analysis company has predicted that 200 patients will be fighting for their lives in the near future.

“It is the worst winter outbreak for influenza and viruses for 10 years,” Health Protection Agency Communicable Diseases Consultant Dr. Philip Monk said, according to the Telegraph. “There are a lot of illnesses out there. Vulnerable people, like young children, are at risk. Unfortunately some of them die.”

Flu levels had remained normal for the year on a national level, but the number of cases has doubled within the last week, the Telegraph reports.

“It’s not unusual to see this level of flu activity at this time of the year but, due to the fact that the H1N1 swine flu is one of the predominant strains circulating at the moment, we are seeing more severe illness in people under the age of 65 than we would usually see,” Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department of the HPA, said, the Telegraph reports. “Flu can be an extremely serious illness for pregnant women, the elderly and those with other underlying conditions such as heart problems, diabetes, lung, liver or renal disease and those who have weakened immune system.

“Flu vaccination offers the best protection for those at high risk from seasonal flu. And we urge all those in these ‘at risk’ groups – including pregnant women and health care workers – to get themselves vaccinated as soon as possible."