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Swine flu vaccination to start as death toll rises

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Swine flu related deaths in the UK have shot up to 106, with the number of new cases rising to 27,000 in the last week, the Chief Medical Officer has revealed.

Sir Liam Donaldson also announced that high-risk patients and frontline health workers in hospitals will be the first to be inoculated from 21 October.

During his regular weekly briefing at the Department of Health, the Chief Medical Officer said there had been 83 swine flu deaths in England, 15 in Scotland, four in Wales and four in Northern Ireland.

Sir Liam explained: “There is a further increase but the increase has not been anything like the doubling expected.”

The number of people in hospital with swine flu increased from 290 to 364, while the number in intensive care rose from 47 to 74.

This is the highest proportion of hospitalised patients who have been in intensive care since the epidemic began, Sir Liam said.

He added: “For most of the time it’s been about 12-13%, now it’s up to 20%, suggesting we are seeing more serious cases than we were seeing before. There is no sign of any change in the virus but this is giving me some concern.”

In a study of 266 hospitalised patients with confirmed swine flu, more than a quarter also suffered from asthma, while more than one in ten had heart disease and around 10% were diabetic. Some 6% of the patients were pregnant.

About 37,000 people have contracted the virus so far in the UK, according to the Health Protection Agency.

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