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Headlines in the natural health news tell us that a swine flu (H1N1) pandemic is sweeping through England and Wales even though 70 per cent of their populations were vaccinated for influenza in 2009. The truth, however, does not match the headlines.

Is there really a swine flu pandemic in Britain?

There is absolute, objective evidence that Britain is suffering its coldest winter in decades, or even longer. With winter ice and snow comes increased mortality. People with weak hearts die struggling to walk through snow or over ice. People succumb to falls and auto crashes. And it's also true that more children in Britain went to doctor's office for treatment of influenza last week than earlier in December.
But are the headlines true?
Here are the facts:
  • The British Health Protection Agency reports that 11,193 people in the UK died of any cause in the week ending 10 December 2010, when the current cold weather started. This is approximately 2,000 more than in a usual week. It does not list a separate number for flu deaths, but 27 people in the whole of Britain have died of influenza since 1 October 2010.
  • The infection rates of influenza are rapidly increasing in Wales. Earlier in December, 99.95% of children in Wales did not have flu. Last week, only 99.8% of children in Wales did not have flu.
  • In the UK this week, 17 swine flu patients are receiving assisted oxygenation in intensive care units.
  • British health officials are concerned about the possibility of a coming flu epidemic, which would be declared when 1 person in every 200 has the infection. There is no swine flu pandemic in Britain at this time.

There are 62 million people in the UK.

And what about the claim that people are dying of H1N1 his year despite having immunizations against swine flu last year? Of the 27 people (18 of them children) in the UK who have died of influenza this year, 21 did not get shots, 1 did, and the immunization status of the other 6 is unknown. However, not all of those who died of the flu had H1N1, and 17 were "at risk" patients who had either diabetes or asthma.
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