No special flu plans advised as schools reopen

No special arrangements are necessary for GPs to deal with rising flu consultations, the DoH said, despite the high rate of swine flu among children as many schools reopen.

Cases of swine flu in the 2009/10 pandemic peaked in the weeks after schools reopened following the summer break. In the current flu season, rates of swine flu are now highest among children aged 5-14.

The most recent HPA figures show that calls to NHS Direct about fever in the 5-14 age group are at 16.8%, above the baseline level of 9%.

The DoH said it would not speculate on whether a surge in cases of swine flu was likely among schoolchildren. A spokeswoman said GPs were aware of schools reopening and the department was not recommending that any special arrangements be put in place.

RCGP immunisation lead Dr George Kassianos said: 'Going by previous experience, we tend to see an increase in patients contracting influenza when the schools open. We should, therefore, expect to see an increase in consultations for young children as they return to nurseries and schools.'

HPA data show GP consultations are above baseline rates in all four UK countries. So far 39 deaths associated with influenza infection have been reported. But the agency said a recent fall in the number of contacts with NHS Direct suggests the peak of the flu season may be approaching.

Last week health secretary Andrew Lansley relaunched the Catch it, Bin it, Kill it awareness campaign after criticism for dropping the scheme for this flu season.

He said: 'To help ease pressures on the NHS I want to remind people what we can all do to prevent the spread of flu. The first line of defence against flu is to be vaccinated – I urge everyone in an at risk group who hasn’t been vaccinated to contact their GP and book an appointment.'

Stephen Robinson

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