Estimates of the number of people in the UK who could die in the flu pandemic have dropped to 19,000, the Government’s chief medical officer announced today.
Sir Liam Donaldson said revised guidance for the NHS puts the range from 3,000 deaths to a ‘worst case scenario’ of 19,000 – down from 65,000 reported in July.But Sir Liam said the revised figures, from Government scientists, were ‘assumptions and not predictions’.
The figures do not include an assessment of what impact the swine flu vaccine – due in October – may have.The 19,000 figure is based on an attack rate of 30 per cent and a death rate of 0.1 per cent.
Other figures out today showed there were an estimated 4,500 people newly diagnosed with swine flu in England in the last week.This is a slight drop on the 5,000 cases reported in the previous week and down from a high of around 100,000 cases more than a month ago.
The number of deaths in England linked to the virus stands at 61, up from 57 last week.There has also been one death in Wales, one in Northern Ireland and seven in Scotland.
Sir Liam said he had been looking carefully at data from Scotland, where schools returned from their summer break earlier than in England.Experts have predicted a surge in the number of swine flu cases once schools and universities go back across the UK.
Sir Liam said: ‘There is no suggestion of any significant upturn in Scotland’, adding that England was unlikely to see a peak ‘before the second half of October’.
It comes as the results of a pilot study of a swine flu vaccine published today revealed a ‘strong immune response’ after just one dose.Scientists from the University of Leicester said they tested 100 healthy volunteers with a cell-based drug to see how their immune system responded.
Trial leader Dr Iain Stephenson found 80 per cent of the volunteers showed a ‘strong, potentially protective’ response after one dose, with more than 90 per cent showing the same response after two doses.
He said: ‘The results suggest that one vaccine dose may be sufficient to protect against A(H1N1) swine flu, rather than two.
‘The aim of the trial was to find out how many doses and what type of vaccine is needed to give protection.
‘These initial results should help to plan vaccination campaigns in the autumn, including doses and timings.’
The first vaccinations of people in at-risk groups – such as those with asthma and diabetes – are expected to take place in October after the vaccine receives its licence.Sir Liam said more work was needed to see if the Leicester findings were replicated across other studies.
‘I think it’s too early to say whether these early findings can be generalised.
‘The work on the H5N1 virus (avian flu) did suggest that you needed to have both doses to get a proper antibody response.
‘We will watch carefully but we are certainly, at this stage, not starting to think about one dose rather than two.’ — Mail