The West Midlands is approaching epidemic levels of swine flu, the Government announced yesterday as it revealed 14 people in the UK have now thought to have died after contracting the virus.
Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson said the latest figures did not mean they all died as a direct result of swine flu but that many had the virus.
These include six-year-old Sameerah Ahmad, from Edgbaston, who died at Birmingham Children’s Hospital after contracting the virus last month. She had a rare life-threatening disease.
There are currently 335 people in hospital in England with swine flu of which 43 are in critical care, he added.
The UK now has the third highest number of cases of swine flu in the world after the US and Mexico.
However, Sir Liam admitted it was unknown how many people in the UK were truly suffering from the virus as many people would be treating themselves at home rather than contacting their GP.
It is unclear where or when the latest deaths linked to swine flu occurred.
Justin McCracken, chief executive of the Health Protection Agency, said the organisation would not be releasing information about individual deaths, adding that it was a local decision in each case whether to release details of where and who the victims were.
Sir Liam said latest data from 100 GP surgeries around England showed that about 27,000 people per week were being diagnosed by their GP as having a flu-like illness.
Of these, an estimated 8,000 will have swine flu.
There were 9,718 confirmed cases of swine flu in the UK on Wednesday.
This was just behind Mexico, with 10,262 cases. The US currently has 33,902 confirmed cases.
However, cases of swine flu in the UK are no longer being diagnosed by laboratory testing as the virus continues to spread.
The number of cases is now being monitored in various ways including laboratory testing on sample groups, some GP practices and the number of calls received by NHS Direct.