Thursday, December 30, 2010

Serious influenza cases increase 50% in England in three days

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Serious influenza cases increase 50% in England in three days

Serious influenza cases increase 50% in England in three days ~ Trends In Retail
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Serious influenza cases increase 50% in England in three days

New statistics reveal a sharp rise in the number of Serious Cases of the influenza virus in England. The figures, released by the Department of Heath (DoH), show the number of people seriously infected by the virus has increased by 50% in three days. The data discloses 460 patients were in intesive care with influenza up from 302 on Monday.

Health analysts are now questioning why less people are being vaccinated to protect them from the virus, and asking why the government has not run an annual advertising campaign advising people how to avoid the illness. Dr Richard Vautrey, who works for the British Medical Association (BMA), warned people were not taking influenza seriously. "We wrote to the Department of Health a couple of weeks ago warning about the low uptake," he said. "People do not seem to have been taking this year's seasonal flu seriously enough and I think an awareness campaign early on could have helped."

The opposition, Labour, rounded on the government over the decision not to run the campaign. John Healey, the Shadow Secretary of State for Health, said the decision was a "wrong judgement" by the government. "The health secretary's decision has left the NHS playing catch-up," he said. The Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley defended the government's decision not to run the campaign, but admitted there was confusion in the public over whether they needed to be given a vaccination. He added, however, general practitioners would be contacting those most vulnerable to the disease and administering them with a vaccine.

The figures come a day after reports that NHS Direct, an advice line run by the National Heath Service (NHS), is "at breaking point". The telephone line has allegedly seen a 50% rise in calls recently, and is taking on additional employees through the winter. One senior nurse reportedly said the situation was "by far the worst it has ever been".

Nick Chapman, the chief executive of the service, apologised to callers who had to wait longer to get through. "The excessively cold weather creates demand for health care generally, and in particular for telephone services that you do not need to leave the house to access," he said. "We are taking a number of actions to address and improve the service at this busy time, which include increasing the number of permanent and temporary staff and providing more opportunities for staff to work from home for short periods at our busiest times."


Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is an infectious disease caused by RNA viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae (the influenza viruses), that affects birds and mammals. The most common symptoms of the disease are chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness/fatigue and general discomfort. Sore throat, fever and coughs are the most frequent symptoms. In more serious cases, influenza causes pneumonia, which can be fatal, particularly for the young and the elderly. Although it is often confused with other influenza-like illnesses, especially the common cold, influenza is a more severe disease than the common cold and is caused by a different type of virus.Influenza may produce nausea and vomiting, particularly in children, but these symptoms are more common in the unrelated gastroenteritis, which is sometimes called "stomach flu" or "24-hour flu".

Typically, influenza is transmitted through the air by coughs or sneezes, creating aerosols containing the virus. Influenza can also be transmitted by direct contact with bird droppings or nasal secretions, or through contact with contaminated surfaces. Airborne aerosols have been thought to cause most infections, although which means of transmission is most important is not absolutely clear. Influenza viruses can be inactivated by sunlight, disinfectants and detergents. As the virus can be inactivated by soap, frequent hand washing reduces the risk of infection.

Influenza spreads around the world in seasonal epidemics, resulting in the deaths of between &0000000000250000000000250,000 and &0000000000500000000000500,000 people every year, up to millions in some pandemic years. On average 41,400 people died each year in the United States between 1979 and 2001 from influenza. In 2010 the CDC in the United States changed the way it reports the 30 year estimates for deaths. Now they are reported as a range from a low of about 3,300 deaths to a high of 49,000 per year.

Three influenza pandemics occurred in the 20th century and killed tens of millions of people, with each of these pandemics being caused by the appearance of a new strain of the virus in humans. Often, these new strains appear when an existing flu virus spreads to humans from other animal species, or when an existing human strain picks up new genes from a virus that usually infects birds or pigs. An avian strain named H5N1 raised the concern of a new influenza pandemic, after it emerged in Asia in the 1990s, but it has not evolved to a form that spreads easily between people. In April 2009 a novel flu strain evolved that combined genes from human, pig, and bird flu, initially dubbed "swine flu" and also known as influenza A/H1N1, emerged in Mexico, the United States, and several other nations. The World Health Organization officially declared the outbreak to be a pandemic on June 11, 2009 (see 2009 flu pandemic). The WHO's declaration of a pandemic level 6 was an indication of spread, not severity, the strain actually having a lower mortality rate than common flu outbreaks.

Vaccinations against influenza are usually given to people in developed countries and to farmed poultry. The most common human vaccine is the trivalent influenza vaccine (TIV) that contains purified and inactivated material from three viral strains. Typically, this vaccine includes material from two influenza A virus subtypes and one influenza B virus strain. The TIV carries no risk of transmitting the disease, and it has very low reactivity. A vaccine formulated for one year may be ineffective in the following year, since the influenza virus evolves rapidly, and new strains quickly replace the older ones. Antiviral drugs can be used to treat influenza, with neuraminidase inhibitors being particularly effective.

Department of Health (United Kingdom)

The Department of Health (DH) is a department of the United Kingdom government with responsibility for government policy for English health and social care matters and for the English National Health Service (NHS) along with a few elements of the same matters which are not otherwise devolved to the Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish governments. It is led by the Secretary of State for Health with two Ministers of State and two Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State.

The DH carries out some of its work through arm's length bodies, including non-departmental public bodies and executive agencies such as the Commercial Medicines Unit (CMU) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Intensive-care medicine

Intensive-care medicine or critical-care medicine is a branch of medicine concerned with the provision of life support or organ support systems in patients who are critically ill and who usually require intensive monitoring.

British Medical Association

The British Medical Association (BMA) is the professional association and registered trade union for doctors in the United Kingdom. The association does not regulate or certify doctors, a responsibility which lies with the General Medical Council. The association’s headquarters are located in BMA House, Tavistock Square, London. Additionally, the Association has national offices in Cardiff, Belfast, and Edinburgh, a European office in Brussels and a number of offices in English regions. The BMA has a range of representative and scientific committees and is recognised by National Health Service employers as sole contract negotiators for doctors. The aim for the BMA is "to promote the medical and allied sciences, and to maintain the honour and interests of the medical profession".

John Healey

John Healey (born 13 February 1960) is a British Labour Party politician, who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Wentworth and Dearne since 1997, and former Minister of State for Housing and Planning. In 2010 he was elected to the shadow cabinet and appointed shadow health secretary.

Shadow Secretary of State for Health

The Shadow Secretary of State for Health is an office within British politics held by a member of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. The duty of the office holder is to scrutinise the actions of the government's Secretary of State for Health and develop alternative policies. The office holder is a member of the Shadow Cabinet.

Andrew Lansley

Andrew David Lansley, CBE, (born 11 December 1956) is a Conservative Party politician in the United Kingdom and Secretary of State for Health. He has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for South Cambridgeshire since the 1997 general election.

He was appointed as a Privy Counsellor on 13 May 2010.

Secretary of State for Health

Secretary of State for Health is a UK cabinet position responsible for the Department of Health.

The first Boards of Health were created by Orders in Council dated 21 June, 14 November, and 21 November 1831. In 1848 a General Board of Health was created with the First Commissioner of Woods and Forests as its President. In 1854 this Board was reconstituted and the President appointed separately. However, the Board was abolished and its duties transferred the Privy Council by the Public Health Act 1858. From 1871 the Health powers were moved to the President of the Local Government Board.

The Ministry of Health was created in 1919 as a reconstruction of the Local Government Board. Local government functions were eventually transferred to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, leaving the Health Ministry in charge of Health proper.

From 1968 it was amalgamated with the Ministry of Social Security under the Secretary of State for Social Services, until a demerger of the Department of Health and Social Security on 25 July 1988.

NHS Direct

NHS Direct is the health advice and information service provided by the National Health Service (NHS) for residents and visitors in England, with advice offered through telephone contact on the national 0845 46 47 number and multi-channel digital service 24 hours a day, every day of the year. As a part of the National Health Service, all NHS Direct services are free at the point of care.

Users of the service, through whichever channel, are asked questions about their symptoms or problem. Common problems are often given simple self care advice, which they can follow thereby avoiding an expensive visit to a health care professional. More complex problems are assessed by a nurse and can then be given treatment advice or referred on to another service within the NHS.

As well as these core services, NHS Direct provides a number of commissioned services throughout the NHS, such as specialised support for patients with long term conditions, access to GP and dental healthcare out of hours, and a professional response system for times of public health anxiety.

NHS Direct only provides its service for residents and visitors in England, and there are corresponding public services covering Scotland (NHS 24) and Wales (NHS Direct Wales). Northern Ireland does not have such a service.

In August 2010, the BBC reported that David Cameron's coalition government was planning to scrap the NHS Direct 0845 46 47 helpline telephone service in favour of the cheaper NHS 111 number. This intention was set out in the white paper, but was portrayed in the media as a ‘leak’ by the Conservative Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

National Health Service (England)

The National Health Service or NHS is the publicly-funded healthcare system in England. The term is also commonly used to refer to any other or all the national health services in the UK but there has never been only one system since they were created in 1948; only the English system is named without national qualification.

The NHS provides healthcare to anyone normally resident in England or any other part of the United Kingdom with most services free at the point of use for the patient though there are charges associated with eye tests, dental care, prescriptions, and many aspects of personal care. The NHS has agreed a formal constitution which sets out the legal rights and responsibilities of the NHS, its staff, and users of the service and makes additional non-binding pledges regarding many key aspects of its operations.

The NHS provides the majority of healthcare in England, including primary care, in-patient care, long-term healthcare, ophthalmology and dentistry. The National Health Service Act 1946 came into effect on 5 July 1948. Private health care has continued parallel to the NHS, paid for largely by private insurance: it is used by about 8% of the population, generally as an add-on to NHS services. In the first decade of the 21st century the private sector started to be increasingly used by the NHS to increase capacity. According to the BMA a large proportion of the public opposed this move.

The NHS is largely funded from general taxation (including a proportion from National Insurance payments). The UK government department responsible for the NHS is the Department of Health, headed by the Secretary of State for Health. Most of the expenditure of The Department of Health (£98.7 billion in 2008-9) is spent on the NHS.

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