Swine flu is most common strain here five years after pandemic

Swine Flu is now the top flu strain in NI.
Swine Flu is now the top flu strain in NI.

The Western Trust says it’s unable to provide details of Swine Flu admittances or deaths at Altnagelvin but the Sentinel can reveal the virus responsible for the 2009 worldwide pandemic is this season the most common strain across Northern Ireland.

‘Swine Flu’ - or H1N1 - the influenza type A, which circulated amongst humans for the first time in 2009, is now the main virus affecting people here.

According to the latest Public Health Agency (PHA) bulletin for the first week of March: “Influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 [or Swine Flu] is the predominant strain to date this season, accounting for approximately 61 per cent (110/181) of all positive influenza specimens.”

The Sentinel asked the Western Trust for details of the number of confirmed cases of Swine Flu reported at Altnagelvin since the start of the year.

The paper also asked if there had been any deaths attributed to Swine Flu or if the virus has been listed on the medical notes of individuals who had died at Altnagelvin.

A Western Trust spokesperson said: “The Trust will not be providing a breakdown of statistics for individual types of flu such as Swine Flu as this could lead to patients becoming identifiable and lead to a breach in patient confidentiality. This is the same for both current patients and those who have attended since January 2014.

“The Trust is also not able to provide information where Swine Flu has been mentioned in medical notes or on death certificate as this information is not readily available and would mean a manual exercise to check each individual record.”

The Trust encouraged people who think they have flu but are normally healthy to try to recover at home with the usual flu remedies.

A spokesperson for the Public Health Agency (PHA) told the Sentinel it has a number of surveillance systems in place to monitor flu activity across Northern Ireland. “We publish a weekly update during flu season which is available on the Flu Aware website.
“Our surveillance indicates that flu activity is relatively uniform across Northern Ireland and currently remains low compared with last year.

“The PHA monitors the number of admissions to intensive care with confirmed flu and this is reported in the weekly flu update.

“Please note that ‘Swine Flu’ is not routinely used and is now regarded as one of the normal seasonal flu strains,” a PHA spokesperson said.