Helen Macdonald on the calm, waves of flu, vaccines, and other stories

Helen Macdonald Calm settled over swine flu coverage this week as the northern hemisphere headed into the summer holidays; but much remains uncertain.

Stories tracking the Health Protection Agency’s weekly flu figures fell from the front pages. But based on the agency’s numbers, the press report that cases, consultations, admissions and deaths from swine flu are far lower in the UK this week than last – as predicted for the summer.Elsewhere in the world the numbers of lab confirmed cases rose. In Europe, Germany saw a 114% increase in the last week. In the Southern hemisphere the largest increases are in Argentina (60%) and Peru (45%), which could be down to a second wave of the virus.

Speculating on the next wave

In the UK lull, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson shared officials’ thoughts on when a second wave might hit, quoted in a BBC news story.

“It’s guesswork really – we would anticipate that when the schools go back, at some point after that it would rise. We can’t be complacent about this, we have to continue planning.”

Exclusive vaccination plans

The vaccine is a priority, and the BBC story continues with an announcement from the World Health Organisation 6th August saying that the vaccine should be licensed some time in September.

The Guardian 7th August has news on how vaccines might be delivered, once they are available. The paper learned that ministers are considering plans to vaccinated 8.5 million school children in schools to combat the expected second wave of flu.

“In the biggest mass vaccination since the 1964 operation against smallpox, school nurses, health visitors and GPs would deliver the injections to five- to 16-year-olds at all 33,700 schools.”

The story reports that a senior Whitehall official said the plan was “logical”; but it may not be feasible.

“The huge scale of the task has led to questions about whether there would be enough health professionals available to administer the jabs. For example, there are just 1,447 school nurses for the 25,000 schools in England,” the story continued.

Winners, losers and statements on swine flu

Away from the serious headlines, there could be good news for some in the thermometer business. Updating London GPs in her swine flu alert, Dr Michelle Drage wrote of unconfirmed reports that the wholesale cost of thermometers have doubled.

Elsewhere, The Sun has learned that despite his exemplary controlled sneeze, the face of the UK’s TV swine flu prevention campaign has been struck down with flu. Referring to the take home slogans of his campaign, actor David McClusker told the Sun,

“I was supposed to ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’. But instead I’ve been shivering, shaking, and spreading it.”

Finally, the Dalai Lama struck a pose and created a surprising image with his nasal spray while responding to questions on swine flu earlier this week in Switzerland, which entertained some commuters reading The Metro.