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January 5 - 11 2011
μWorld News PAGES 14-17
μComment PAGES 18-21
μObituaries PAGES 22-23
Big Ben ‘targeted’ Men accused of plotting festive terror wave appear in court
National Archives This year’s batch of declassified documents offers up its secrets
The time to grow old Geraldine Bedell ponders the impact of an ageing society
A-Z of 2010 Rupert Neate looks back at a year filled with excuses and vuvuzelas
3 2 16 26 34 39 4 9 33 34 36 45
Bonus Ball 49
Bonus Ball 26
There was one winner of Saturday’s £7.3m jackpot but no one won Wednesday’s £2.6m prize
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By Richard Gray and Martin Beckford SWINE flu has spread more rapidly in Britain than in the rest of Europe, the World Health Organisation has disclosed, as the Government faces growing criticism over the country’s preparations for an epidemic.
Experts have warned that the surge in influenza cases in Britain has not yet peaked and say the number will continue to rise rapidly over the next two to four weeks.
Figures released by the WHO show the rate of flu-like illnesses is still low across continental Europe but has risen dramatically in Britain since the flu season began in October. The majority are swine flu cases.
Currently 738 patients are receiving intensive care treatment for flu in Britain and at least 17 have required life support because their heart and lungs have failed. The number of deaths stands at 39, with 36 of the victims dying of the H1N1 swine flu virus, while reported cases rose by more than 40 per cent last week.
Hospitals around the country have been forced to declare red and black alerts as a result of the outbreak.
Every hospital bed in the country offering life-saving treatment for flu is now in use as the outbreak worsens.
Over the past month, the NHS has increased fourfold the number of special machines that treat critical flu victims. The machines offer a form of life-saving treatment – Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation, or Ecmo – to help victims whose lungs have failed by putting oxygen directly into their bloodstream.
Ecmo is now on offer at seven hospitals around England, with referrals taking place at the country’s main Ecmo centre in Glenfield Hospital, Leicester.
Hospitals offering the treatment, which requires the help of extra doctors and nurses, have been told to postpone planned operations. All 21 beds are in use, although there is no suggestion that patients are being turned away.
But as more patients continue to be considered for Ecmo, health bodies are preparing to buy even more of the £40,000 machines and install them in more centres. NHS Specialised Services wrote to all Strategic Health Authorities before Christmas, putting them on alert that more hospitals may be required to offer Ecmo if demand continues to rise.
A spokesman said: “The NHS is monitoring the situation carefully and we are continuing to increase the number of beds available. For instance, hospitals providing respiratory Ecmo have been asked to take appropriate measures, including postponing planned cardiac surgery, in order to maximise capacity for patients needing Ecmo.”
The Government has been forced to defend the country’s level of preparedness against the flu outbreak. The Department of Health denied that the country was facing a shortage of the flu vaccine after some surgeries reported they were running out.
The Government also relaunched its national flu prevention campaign on New
Year’s Day to try to quell the rising number of cases, following criticism of Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, for his cancellation of the usual winter flu campaign urging people at risk to be vaccinated.
Announcing last Friday that radio and press advertising would begin again this week,
PROF JOHN OXFORD FLU VIROLOGIST
he said the NHS was under “huge pressures”. The campaign will run for three weeks and cost almost £1million.
A further surge in flu cases is expected this week as schools reopen and workers return after the Christmas and New Year holiday. School-age children, who have so far escaped the worst of the outbreak, are expected to be particularly badly hit in the next fortnight as the outbreak is forecast to reach its peak.
In its influenza bulletin, the WHO said: “The United Kingdom has been experiencing a surge in both mild and severe cases for the last three weeks which has not yet peaked. On the European continent, rates of respiratory disease are still relatively low, but the number of countries reporting influenza detections are increasing.”
Flu experts said it was not clear why Britain appeared to have so many cases early in the season compared with the rest of Europe, but it could be attributed to people travelling to visit family at Christmas.
Prof John Oxford, an influenza virologist at Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry in London, said: “These figures are just a snapshot of the current situation across Europe, but it could have something to do with the movement of people at this time of year.
“We can expect the number of cases to keep going up, possibly reaching epidemic limits before it peaks in the next two to four weeks. This is a virus that thrives on close human contact so we can expect an explosion in cases after the New Year.
“It is good to see the Government has decided to restart its campaign to encourage good hygiene – this is the first line of defence against the flu virus.”
Geoff Martin, the chairman of the NHS pressure group Health Emergency, said: “The NHS is now on the brink of the worst winter crisis in over a decade as the harsh reality of cuts to beds and staffing numbers is exposed with lethal consequences.”
There has also been concern that flu vaccines were not offered to children under five this year, despite advice from the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation last January that it would be “prudent” to include children aged six months to five years in this winter’s vaccine programme.
A SCOUT leader, killed after the hot air balloon in which he was travelling caught fire and plunged to the ground, is thought to have been given the trip as a treat by his son.
Allan Burnett died alongside experienced balloonist Lee Pibworth last Saturday when their balloon exploded during a highaltitude flight. His son Alex was Mr Pibworth’s usual copilot, and is believed to have helped his father prepare for take-off and watched the balloon’s ascent.
Friends and colleagues paid tribute to Allan Burnett, who was also a governor at Cheddar Valley Primary School in Bedminster Down. On her Facebook page, Carol Collins said: “My thoughts are with Jill Burnett and her family after the tragic loss of Allan Burnett who was such
Allan Burnett and Lee Pibworth were killed when their hot air balloon crashed in Somerset. Right: Allan Burnett (right) and son Alex (left) who gave him the trip a lovely man and will be sadly missed by everyone who knew him, especially all those at Cheddar Grove
Primary School … x.” Liam Stevenson added: “He will never be forgotten and will be in our hearts.”
Mr Pibworth, 42, was piloting the £20,000 craft when it crashed at Prattens Bowls Club in Midsomer Norton, Somerset. His wife Elisabeth is thought to have been in the ground crew, alongside Alex Burnett.
The crew watched the balloon launch, losing sight of it as it disappeared into the clouds. Minutes later it reappeared with the canopy deflated and dropped from the sky “like a dart”.
The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch was this week examining the crash site. One theory is that an oxygen cylinder – needed because the men were attempting to fly at 20,000ft – exploded, igniting the craft. Another is that the supply failed, causing the men to lose consciousness and crash.