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Michael McGimpsey speaks out over swine flu ‘scaremongers’

By Noel McAdam

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has hit out at “scaremongering” over swine flu — and insisted the current outbreak is past its peak.

Speaking in the Assembly, he said rumours — including claims that the Northern Ireland strain of the virus was different from that in Britain — had been “profoundly unhelpful”.

Mr McGimpsey told MLAs: “We had to work that bit harder to counter the sort of scares that are going about.”

And he told the DUP’s Jim Wells, chair of the Assembly’s health committee, that politicians should help deliver accurate messages to the public.

The minister said there have been a total of 21 deaths during the recent spate, compared to 19 in the previous outbreak, which had been over the late summer and autumn of 2009.

“The difference of two is not determined by anything other than the effect of the winter... which helps lead to more flu conditions,” he said.

Of the more recent 21 deaths, he reaffirmed 18 patients had underlying health conditions, two did not, and the remaining one remained undecided.

Mr McGimpsey was quizzed by Sinn Fein MLAs Pat Sheehan and Sue Ramsey over whether he believed public confidence in the health authorities remained an issue, and that people had faced a lack of information.

Mr McGimpsey said he as the Health Minister, Michael McBride, the chief medical officer, and the public health agency had all issued many Press releases and bulletins.

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