Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer has said he is “cautiously optimistic” that the worst of the swine flu wave currently circulating Northern Ireland has passed.
However, Dr Michael McBride also revealed that an adult with underlying health conditions had become the latest person in Northern Ireland to die after being diagnosed with swine flu.
At the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety weekly swine flu briefing in Belfast yesterday Dr McBride said GP consultation rates and out-of-hours calls have both decreased by 9% and 37% respectively.
The number of swine flu detections over the most recent seven-day monitoring period had also fallen by 29% to 153 — compared to 215 the previous period, Dr McBride said.
There have been 1,220 people diagnosed with swine flu in Northern Ireland and a total of 527 patients hospitalised. The number of new hospitalised cases is also down from 87 to 50 — a 43% decrease — between the two most recent monitoring periods.
Doctors also handed out over 50% fewer antiviral prescriptions.
Dr McBride said: “I would say I am cautiously optimistic, but at this time it would be premature to say we believe that we are absolutely sure that the worst of the current wave is over.
“I would remind people we are constantly learning about swine flu.
“We don’t really know what lies ahead. Swine flu does pose a real and significant public health risk, that we know for certain.
“In terms of the uptake of the vaccine, the figures are encouraging and positive. I would like to stress that as soon as we get the vaccine it will be made available to trusts and GP practices so it can be administered.”
Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said: “We can be reassured that by mid-December all those in the priority groups who are most at risk among our population will have been offered the vaccine.”