Five further deaths from swine flu
Five more swine flu deaths in Northern Ireland have been recorded in the past week, public health managers said.
A total of 21 H1N1 flu deaths among Northern Ireland residents were reported this winter plus a child from the Irish Republic, according to the Public Health Agency (PHA).
The number of cases of the virus has passed its peak but those with underlying health conditions are still vulnerable, director of public health Dr Carolyn Harper added. Pressure is easing on health services with fewer GP consultations.
Dr Harper said: "We do expect to see further swine flu deaths but it is reassuring that the level of new cases in new patients is decreasing."
There were five further deaths from last Wednesday, including the child from the Republic.
Of the 21 deaths, 18 patients had an underlying health problem, two did not and one is not yet known. Since last week one further person has died from the Influenza B virus which is a different strain of flu.
Dr Harper added the number of GP consultations has decreased by a quarter and flu rates continue to remain above normal but below the 2008/09 peak period. Rates remain highest in the 15-44 age group.
Dr Harper added: "If the current trend continues, the peak of this year's flu season has passed. Consultation rates, numbers of new cases and registered deaths from selected respiratory infections have all decreased.
"People with underlying health problems remain at much greater risk of developing serious complications of flu but people without underlying health problems can also be affected."
Vaccines against the virus are currently only available to people in certain at-risk groups and there are no plans to vaccinate children aged under five who are healthy. During the pandemic last year, 19 people died from the H1N1 virus, all but one of whom had an underlying condition.