Expert blames current U.K. flu outbreak on lack of awareness

Professor Steve Field, the former chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, has speculated that a lack of a public awareness campaign in the United Kingdom has contributed to a rise in H1N1 swine flu cases, which have doubled in the last week.

According to the U.K. Department of Health, over 300 people are in critical care beds with the flu while 17 people have died as a result. Field believes that the NHS should have encouraged more people to receive the H1N1 vaccination, including health professionals, according to the Guardian.

"Rates of uptake are shockingly low," Field said, according to the Guardian. "It was ill-advised not to have the public awareness campaign on seasonal flu jab uptake that we usually have, because we knew that the public and healthcare professionals were likely to become complacent after last year's swine flu pandemic wasn't the serious attack on the country that we thought it could be. With the added winter pressures on the NHS, we need NHS staff to be vaccinated as soon as possible, so that they can continue working, and we also need pregnant women and people who are vulnerable to have a flu jab that includes the swine flu vaccine as soon as possible."

In several statements, the NHS said that it would be able to cope with the rise in cases and they stress that they do not have a pandemic on their hands, the Guardian reports. The government spent more than $250,000 last year on advertising for the H1N1 vaccine campaign but has relied on general practitioners and primary care trusts to spread the word this year.

Critical care beds equipped to handle the illness effectively are also in short supply in several hospitals, the Guardian reports.