Where are the statistics on swine-flu 2010?
The number of patients with swine flu who need intensive care has already matched the peak reached in 2009 (12-18 November 2009) prompting health reporters to draw a parallel – but finding themselves persuaded to deny an epidemic.
Their common sense, however, told them that if England had quietly reached its 2009-swine-flu-maximum without much furore, then there was worse to come from the third wave of H1N1, which coincides with UK’s winter.
Good advice has been given – that pregnant women should seek out flu vaccine if they have not already done so, and that prompt use of antivirals is important. Social distancing may be more difficult in the festive season when families and friends convene convivially but infectees and their close contacts should try to isolate themselves as far as is practicable.
Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, the former Chief Medical Officer, promised during the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 that it would have its legacy, in terms of improved virological surveillance, statistically-robust public reporting standards and sorting out the difficulties which he had faced in the timely monitoring of H1N1 fatalities.
But so far the Health Protection Agency has not resumed its weekly epidemiological reporting on H1N1 that was a feature of the first and second wave of the disease, let alone the improvements that were envisaged.
For example, what is the advice to hospitals on how comprehensively to perform H1N1 testing on admissions with influenza-like illnesses? Hitherto, in Scotland for example, we were accustomed to reporting on the number of new-in-week admissions to a) hospital, b) intensive care unit of patients with confirmed H1N1.
In England, the CMO’s Statistical Legacy Group called for the monitoring of all-cause mortality against seasonal expectation to be conducted and reported for salient age-groups; and for steps to be taken to ensure that coroners registered promptly the fact of death for all cases referred to them.
As 2011 approaches, these are the issues we expect to see addressed if Sir Liam’s legacy is to be made good.