Health chiefs have warned that the four people diagnosed with swine flu in Northern Ireland over the last week may be the “tip of the iceberg”.
According to the latest weekly bulletin released by the Department of Health, four more cases of the virus have been detected over the past seven days.
The new figures come as it emerged 29 people have now died in the UK after contracting swine flu, up from 17 on Monday, according to the Government.
The number of swine flu cases has now hit 55,000 across the UK and the NHS has seen a surge in calls and consultations.
Last week it was announced that the UK was moving to a treatment phase in relation to managing the swine flu pandemic. This meant that the focus shifted to treating those people who actually have swine flu. In addition, the routine testing of suspected cases and the tracing of close contacts of a symptomatic patient was discontinued.
As a result health experts yesterday warned that while only four more cases have been confirmed, there could be many more people diagnosed following the ending of the routine testing of suspected cases.
Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said people in Northern Ireland should continue to contact their GP or ring the Swine Flu Helpline if they are concerned.
This followed an announcement that the National Pandemic Flu Service will be activated in England next Thursday.
“It is clear that the current swine flu pandemic has resulted in varying levels of pressure on health services across the UK. In Northern Ireland, this has been a busier than normal period for our GPs especially considering that we are still in the summer months, however, our GPs and pharmacists are responding extremely well,” Mr McGimpsey said.
“Given the current numbers of flu consultations in Northern Ireland we feel the current arrangements remain the best way to get treatment to all those who need it as quickly as possible.”
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