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Flu death confusion

Susan Watts | 18:33 UK time, Monday, 10 January 2011

An interesting update on flu deaths emerged during Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's statement to the House this afternoon.

He was asked about the 14 deaths in Northern Ireland, and why this appears to be disproportionately higher than flu deaths in England.

He replied that the figure of 50 official deaths to date is the number that has been "verified" by the Health Protection Agency (HPA), then conceded: "There have been more deaths..." but, he explained, these have yet to be verified as deaths from flu by the HPA.

Certainly, we were hearing last week that the true number of deaths was higher than 50. So is this simply a case of the wheels of bureaucracy moving slowly?

Confusingly, in the latest HPA weekly national influenza report, the paragraph on mortality data seems to imply that the 50 deaths represent those across the UK... and yet the Department of Health has just confirmed to me that this number is deaths for England only.

Perhaps the real picture will emerge this week with the latest update due on Thursday..?



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