Flu kills 27 in Britain, spreading in Europe

* Data show 27 flu deaths in UK since October season start

* Flu transmission increasing across Europe Union

* Health authorities say get vaccinated as soon as possible

By Kate Kelland

LONDON, Dec 23 (BestGrowthStock) – Flu has killed 27 people in
Britain since the influenza season began in October and
transmission of the virus is picking up across the European
Union, health officials said on Thursday.

Latest data from Britain’s Health Protection Agency (HPA)
showed that 24 people died with the H1N1 flu strain that spread
around the world as a pandemic in 2009, and three with from a
strain known as flu type B. Eighteen of those who died were
adults and nine were children.

“The level of flu activity we are currently seeing is at
levels often seen during the winter flu seasons, but due to the
fact that H1N1 is one of the predominant strains circulating at
the moment, we are seeing more severe illness in people under
the age of 65 than we would normally expect,” said John Watson,
head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA.

European health experts have said other European countries
should see the severe flu hitting Britain at the moment as a
warning of what might be coming to them soon. [ID:nLDE6BK1R7]

“Influenza transmission is now picking up across the
European Union,” Marc Sprenger, director of the European Centre
for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which monitors
disease in the region, said in a statement.

The H1N1 strain is among the seasonal flu vaccines being
offered across the world this year after the WHO advised it was
likely to be the most dominant strain of the northern
hemisphere’s 2010/2011 flu season. Flu vaccines are made by
several drugmakers including GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L: ),
Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA: ) and Novartis (NOVN.VX: ).

Sprenger said the ECDC’s advice was that all those who are
recommended to have the influenza vaccine by their national
authorities should get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Vaccines and vaccination can be an emotive issue and
citizens rightly ask for assurance,” he added. “The scientific
evidence shows that seasonal influenza vaccines are effective
and very safe. They provide a protection of up to 80 percent
against influenza on an individual basis.”

For most people, flu infection is just a nasty experience,
but for some it can lead to more serious illness. The most
common complications of flu are bronchitis and secondary
bacterial pneumonia.

“Flu can be an extremely serious illness for people in ‘at
risk’ groups, including pregnant women, the elderly and those
with other underlying conditions such as heart problems,
diabetes, lung, liver or renal diseases and those who have
weakened immune systems,” said Watson.

Health officials said on Tuesday that more than 300 people
were in intensive care with flu in hospitals across Britain.

H1N1 flu was discovered in Mexico and the United States in
March 2009 and spread rapidly across the world. The World Health
Organisation, which declared the pandemic over in August, said
about 18,450 people died from the virus, including many pregnant
women and young people.
(Editing by Peter Graff)

Flu kills 27 in Britain, spreading in Europe