Swine flu death rate here one of highest in Europe
By Eilish O'Regan
January 02 2010
THE death toll here from swine flu is disproportionately high compared with other European states.
A total of 22 people have died here as a result of the virus, putting Ireland 12th in Europe for fatalities. In contrast, the Netherlands, with a population of more than 16.5 million people, has had just 52 deaths.
A table, covering 29 countries, was released by the the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
It sets out the number of reported deaths up to Christmas Eve from the pandemic virus that caused a worldwide alert last year.
It comes as the Department of Health has reported no new deaths from swine flu in the Republic over Christmas, during which time the spread of the disease fell significantly, affecting 1,034 people compared with more than 2,000 the previous week.Lethal
However, although the trends are reassuring, the latest European report reveals how the virus, although mild for most sufferers, has been lethal for at least 832 people. It has claimed the most lives in Britain (156), followed by France (150), Germany (123), the Netherlands (52) and Greece (49).
During Christmas, 149 Irish people remained hospitalised with swine flu and 10 of these were seriously ill in intensive care.
According to the European report, Bulgaria continues to have a high intensity of swine flu along with Greece.
Ireland is categorised as having medium intensity, while countries seeing relatively low spread of the virus include Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Cyprus.
The age groups who most needed to be hospitalised with the virus in the Republic so far have been children under 15 years of age followed by people under 24 years of age. The lowest rate has been among people over 65. About 42pc of those who were hospitalised had pre-existing conditions such as chronic heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, asthma and diabetes.
The rate of swine flu illness has been highest in the west and south of the country, while the midlands has seen the lowest level of swine flu infections.
Up to last Sunday, the rate of infection among the 0-4 years of age group also fell to 27.6 per 100,000 compared with 113.7 per 100,000 for the previous week. The rate among the 5-14 years of age group also halved to 19.2 per 100,000.
The closure of schools and creches due to the holiday season was expected to be one of the factors leading to the drop among young children and teenagers. The department stressed, however, that the rates among children under five years of age were still relatively high.
"Children in this age group are more at risk of being hospitalised from flu complications and the department and the Health Service Executive would urge all parents to arrange to have their children under five vaccinated as soon as possible," a spokesman said.
"The vaccine programme through schools will resume after the holidays. Babies aged under six months cannot get the swine flu vaccine, but we will offer a vaccine to everyone living with a child under six months to protect the baby. Appointments can be made for a vaccination clinic on www.swineflu.ie
or by contacting the HSE Information Line on 1850 24 1850."
The Irish Medicines Board said that up to last Wednesday, 907 reports of suspected adverse reactions to the swine flu vaccine were received.
The reports received remained consistent with the expected pattern of adverse effects for the pandemic vaccines. The benefits versus the risks of both vaccines remained positive, said the spokesman.