Cases of flu in England and Wales
soar by 45% in a week
Swine flu reaches epidemic
proportions in under-fives
39 dead from flu - 36 from H1N1
Health chiefs today closed a hospital to visitors in an effort to
contain an outbreak of swine flu.
As 22 people battled the virus in intensive care across Merseyside
and Cheshire, bosses banned friends and relatives from visiting wards at
Arrowe Park Hospital.
The drastic steps had been taken to 'reduce the risk of visitors with
cold and flu symptoms spreading infections to patients and staff', said
It comes as official figures reveal 39 people have died from flu
since October including 36 from the swine flu strain.
Most friends and family will be turned away
from Arrowe Park, but officials will decide whether to allow
visitors for patients with life-threatening illnesses on a case by
FOUR IN FIGHT FOR HER LIFE
A pregnant mother of four is fighting for her life after
contracting swine flu.
Gemma Escott, 27, who is six months' pregnant, was taken
to hospital by her husband Martyn on Christmas Day with
Mrs Escott (pictured), who was diagnosed with swine
flu and pneumonia, is now in a medically induced coma on
a life support machine after her kidneys began to fail.
Devastated Mr Escott, from Evercreech in Somerset, was
last night at his wife’s bedside at Yeovil District
Hospital praying she would pull through.
The couple have four children under the age of eight.
His mother Davinia Pendlebury said: ‘Martyn is beside
himself at the moment.
‘It started a week ago when she thought she just had
a cold. On Christmas Day, Gemma was complaining of chest
pains and not being able to breathe.’
Mrs Pendlebury added: ‘Martyn was so worried he took
her to hospital. She is in a sedated coma and on life
‘We’re just hoping she will be okay.’
Meanwhile, overall cases of flu have soared by 45 per cent in
the past week - most of which are suspected to be the H1N1 swine
Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases
department at the HPA, said: 'We are seeing a large amount of
flu circulating across the country and would urge those people
in an at-risk group to have their seasonal flu vaccine as soon
as possible as this is the best way to protect themselves from
flu this winter.'
The figures from the Royal College of General Practitioners
also revealed a flu epidemic has broken out among children under
Cases of the illness in children aged one to four years
old have soared to more than 200 per 100,000, the level
of an epidemic.
But the true scale of the crisis is
much worse, according to a leading expert, who said the
figures were an underestimate.
Hospitals will soon have to start denying critically
ill people treatment in intensive care units as they
have been swamped with flu patients.
Many are now ‘desperately’ short of beds and nurses,
an NHS pressure group warned last night.
Geoff Martin, of Health Emergency, said: ‘Cuts in
recent years to bed and staff numbers have left the NHS
dangerously exposed and there is no doubt that many
intensive care units will soon have to close to new
admissions, putting hundreds of lives at risk.’
Arrowe Park has responded to the swine flu crisis by
announcing they will turn visitors away from 4pm today
to try and stop the virus spreading further.
The hospital is expected to remain closed into the
At least one scheduled clinic was cancelled today and
bosses said they were meeting on a daily basis to revise
The hospital stressed that patients battling life-threatening
illnesses would be allowed visitors depending on their condition and
that ward managers would make those decisions on a case by case basis.
At Wirral Women and Children's Hospital, connected to Arrowe Park,
patients in the maternity and gynaecology wards will be allowed visits
from their partners - as long as they do not have flu-like symptoms.
Tina Long, director of Nursing and Midwifery at the Hospital, said:
'We are asking visitors to please bear with us at this time and not to
come to the hospital to visit friends or family members unless they are
very seriously ill.
'This temporary suspension of visiting will help us to concentrate on
looking after those patients who need to be in hospital. We will of
course lift this restriction as soon as we can.'
Liverpool PCT said that it was not its policy to publish swine flu
figures for individual hospitals but other hospitals in Merseyside said
their visiting hours remained unchanged, despite the rise in flu cases.
Alder Hey and the Royal Liverpool Hospital are both open to visitors
tomorrow and Liverpool PCT said it was unaware of any other hospitals
Senior GP Dr John Hussey, of Liverpool PCT said that anyone at risk
should get a flu vaccination.
He added: 'For the majority of normally health adults who catch the
flu, it will be unpleasant and inconvenient, but they will begin to feel
better within four to five days.
'If symptoms are not getting better, patients should call their GP
for further advice, but again they should not visit the surgery, as they
risk passing on their infection to vulnerable people.
'If you need to pick up medication, including anti-virals, ask a
friend, family member or neighbour to pick them up for you.
'People with chronic lung, heart, liver, kidney or neurological
problems, as well as those with weakened immune systems, can become
seriously ill, as well as over-65s and pregnant women. They should
telephone their GP if they think they have flu-symptoms.
'These people should make sure they have the flu vaccine to protect
He added: 'Children under five with flu like symptoms should be
assessed by a health care professional.'
Those with concerns are advised to call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
Christmas kisses and
festive affection could be to blame for spreading the
flu virus, it was claimed yesterday.
Professor John Oxford, a
virologist at the University of London, said Christmas
smooches and hand-shaking will have exacerbated the
A surge in the number
of cases is expected as children go back to school next
week, universities re-open and people return to work.
Professor Oxford said:
‘There is a lot more body contact at Christmas with
people kissing and greeting each other and this all adds
to spreading viruses like swine flu. This is the third
wave of swine flu we have had and there is still at
least two thirds of the population who have not yet been
exposed to it.’
Soaring levels of both
seasonal and swine flu are piling more pressure on
hospitals already dealing with cases of the winter
vomiting bug norovirus.
Professor Oxford said
because two in three people did not get swine flu during
the last two outbreaks in the summer of 2009 and last
winter, they are at risk of getting it now.
people who are normally most at risk during flu
outbreaks do not seem to be affected by swine flu,’ he