A HEALTH boss has confirmed people in the Ellesmere Port and Chester area have been hospitalised with swine flu.
Helen Bellairs, chief executive of NHS Western Cheshire, said numbers of cases were “rising steadily” with an expected peak in the autumn.
She said GP surgeries were taking more calls from anxious patients and relatives but it was “business as usual”.
Mrs Bellairs, who chairs the swine flu strategic co-ordinating group, said: “We have had people hospitalised but as far as I’m aware we have not had anybody seriously ill with it.”
The former nurse said it was helpful that schools were breaking up for the summer as it meant young people, who are most susceptible, would not be gathering together in “huge crowds”.
Nationally preparations are being made for the introduction of the National Pandemic Flu Service should levels of the disease increase significantly.
Once this becomes operational, people will no longer need to be diagnosed by their GP but instead will be able to ring a national number.
Qualified staff will take callers through a series of questions, and if they are displaying swine flu symptoms, they will arrange the issuing of anti-viral drugs.
This should enable GPs to concentrate on the more seriously ill or who may be at risk using anti-virals such as young children and pregnant women.
Local hospitals are planning how they will manage an increase in admissions, including improving the capacity of critical care for the minority who need life-support.
Mrs Bellairs said a vaccination is being developed which should be available for distribution at the end of August or beginning of September.
“We don't know who is going to be at the front of the queue for vaccines. We are waiting for that to be decided,” added Mrs Bellairs.
Medical and non-medical staff from all 38 GP practices across the patch received training last Tuesday on how to cope with the predicted surge including how to cope if the workforce is depleted due to swine flu.
During the next few weeks NHS organisations are stress-testing their pandemic flu continuity plans culminating in an exercise across the local health care system in August.
If you think you have swine flu, check the symptoms on the NHS Choices website www.nhs.uk or call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or phone the Swine Flu Information Line on 0800 1 513 513 to hear the latest recorded advice.