A swine flu expert for Birmingham has revealed that the epidemic in the city has reached the peak of its first phase which is coming to an end.
Dr Christopher Ellis, infectious disease consultant at Heartlands Hospital, said Birmingham had overcome the worst of the H1N1 virus at this time with numbers of serious cases being admitted to hospital vastly reduced.
The specialist said it was due to Birmingham becoming a hotspot for the illness ahead of other major cities, meaning large chunks of the population were now already immune.
He said telephone conferences with doctors in the Unitd States and Mexico, as well as the way the virus was acting, showed it had a low death rate of two in every 1,000 people – similar to a condition such as measles.
“It looks as though the first phase of swine flu in Birmingham is beginning to tail off, based on numbers of people we are admitting to hospital,” said Dr Ellis.
“We reach a point with every epidemic where it fizzles out because enough people get immunity. Birmingham was one of the first places with a swine flu epidemic and it has been going for around six weeks now. At about the four-week marker, we had reached our peak and numbers of seriously ill patients have declined since and are still declining.”
People now most likely to be admitted to hospital are those with significant asthma or pregnant women, as well as those with low levels of oxygen in their blood and very low blood pressure.
Heartlands Hospital, in Bordesley Green, is one of the main centres for swine flu victims in the Midlands and has admitted 70 people, predominantly children and those under the age of 30, since the outbreak first surfaced at the end of May; all have recovered.
Dr Ellis said he believed City Hospital, in Winson Green, had treated similar numbers, who all develop breathing and lung problems from the virus.
Heartland chiefs have already downgraded the alert to the lowest level one and are no longer being inundated with patients in A&E. He added that swine flu spread rapidly and early on through mainly Pakistani communities in inner-city Birmingham due to the communities being close-knit with many children and family events.
“There are many now who will have had a sore throat or cough and developed an immunity without even realising they had it,” added Dr Ellis.
“Most people will be affected like normal flu but for those with severe asthma, they are a higher risk as the virus affects their lungs. We haven’t seen it affecting any other parts of the body. We know enough now that a healthy person dying from the virus is exceptional.
“When we see someone turning blue, it is because the lungs are not getting enough oxygen and we have to put them on a machine to help them breathe, but they can be better in just a few days.
“If we get a vaccine by October, then we may not even get a second wave of this in the winter as predicted but if the vaccine does not come, then we will get a second wave when the cold weather starts.”
Two people have died in the West Midlands after contracting swine flu including six-year-old Sameerah Ahmad, of Edgbaston, who was suffering with serious health complaints.
Anyone who thinks they may have swine flu should stay at home and rest and call NHS Direct on 0845 4647.