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Ministerial Statement On Swine Flu In Wales

March 30, 2017

This statement updates Members on latest developments in respect of the Influenza A (H1N1) swine flu pandemic.

The clinical consultation rate for influenza - not necessarily swine flu - in Wales during the week ending 3 January increased slightly to 9.86 cases of flu-like illness diagnosed by GPs out of every 100,000 people in Wales. It was 7.47 per 100,000 in the previous week. Current levels of flu in Wales are below the usual level for this time of year. Activity over the next few weeks will be monitored to indicate whether the low rates are maintained as people go back to work and school after the Christmas break. The exceptional cold weather may also be a factor in influenza like illness rates.

There have been 308 deaths in the UK associated with swine flu; 28 of those deaths have been in Wales. On the 5th January, fifteen people were in hospitals in Wales with swine flu, two of which were in critical care.

Members will be aware of the detection, at the University Hospital of Wales, of 9 cases of swine flu resistant to Tamilflu, some probably contracted through person-to-person spread. This has not spread beyond the specific group of patients with weakened immune systems. The emergence of influenza A viruses that are resistant to Tamiflu was not unexpected and all affected patients have been treated with an alternative antiviral. We have stringent processes in place for monitoring for antiviral resistance in the UK so that we can spot resistance early and the causes can be investigated and the cases managed. Recent data shows that there have been more than 160 reports of Tamiflu-resistant strains worldwide.

The swine flu vaccination programme is well underway. Phase 1 of the programme, offering vaccination to priority groups, has been progressing well. GP practices have been very supportive of the need to call their priority patients in for vaccination quickly and over 250,000 doses have been given so far. We are still encouraging people in the priority groups to take up the offer of the vaccine if they have not yet been vaccinated.

Phase 2 of the vaccination programme, which offers healthy children aged 6 months to under 5 years the vaccination is currently being implemented. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) supports our decision to offer the vaccine to all healthy children in this age group as evidence shows that young children are currently suffering the greatest overall impact from the disease.

It is important to note that not only will swine flu vaccination provide protection this year, but it is likely that in children and healthy adults good levels of protection against this strain of flu will last for several years.

Swine flu continues to be active in many areas of the world, with a high intensity of respiratory disease in central and eastern Asia. In Western Europe, influenza transmission remains active and widespread, but overall disease activity has peaked. In many other areas of the world, influenza transmission remains widespread but the peak period of transmission seems to have passed.

I will continue to report regularly to the Assembly on these matters, and will keep Members informed if there are significant changes to the current situation.

Welsh Assembly Government

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