Northern Ireland

Bereaved family of swine flu victim in vaccine appeal

The family of a man who died from swine flu have appealed for the vaccine for the virus to be made more widely available.

Paul Morrissey died aged 51 on Tuesday after being admitted with the illness.

His family's appeal came after it was revealed for the first time that there have been 13 swine flu related deaths since November.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) said nine of those who died from the H1N1 virus had underlying health conditions.

Cliodhna Morrissey said her family could not believe that their father had gone.

"You think when you hear on the news that it had killed a couple of people that it is not going to happen to you," she said.

"I know he didn't have the flu jab but I would advise anybody out there who hasn't got it to get it."

Her sister Meghan said wider availability of the vaccine could help save other people.

She added: "They did everything for my Daddy when he was in hospital but it was too late.

"If everybody has this jab, it might not have to come to that."

Pattern

Dr Carolyn Harper from the PHA said those who have died since November ranged from children to a 67-year-old.

Across the UK 50 deaths have been reported as a result of the flu virus. Of those, 45 died with swine flu and five with another strain.

Dr Harper said the figures had been released in the light of the level of public interest. However she stressed that most people recover from the virus.

"This is consistent with the pattern we have seen through the pandemic last year," she said.

"This is an infection which particularly affects people with an underlying condition and there's been no change to that pattern."

On Thursday it was confirmed that the number of cases of swine flu had increased to more than 200.

Vast majority

Dr Harper said PHA figures indicated that the 15-44 age group had the highest rate of infection.

"For the majority of people flu remains a mild, self-limiting, often unpleasant infection, but nonetheless the vast majority recover," she said.

Dr Harper encouraged anyone suffering from symptoms to limit the spread of infection by staying at home. However she advised that anyone not feeling better after two to three days should contact their doctor.

Previously the doctor in charge of acute hospital services in Belfast said there are fewer critical cases of swine flu, but those affected were more ill.

Dr Patricia Donnelly said although critical care units were busy, beds were still available in Belfast and across Northern Ireland.

She said in Belfast there were five patients with swine flu in critical care out of a total of 33.

Across NI the number was fluctuating between 25% and 35% of critical beds.

The government has urged people in at-risk groups, including pregnant women, to get a flu jab.

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