Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Ten deaths in the north west

FOR some reason Dr Ruth Hussey, the north west director of public health, has finally relented to tell the press how many people have died from swine flu in the north west: It's 10. Well done to the Manchester Evening News for obtaining this data. But given the small number, one wonders why she was so scared of telling the press? It seems to be a reaction to the very sad death of a fit and healthy 24-year-old woman, Louise Jones, whose death in Greater Manchester has just been made public by the family. Dr Hussey rightly reaffirms that despite the tragedy of this event the virus is usually mild and deaths rare. Did she fear a 'We're all going to die" type headline? I've not seen any reckless reporting by the media - rather the opposite. It might be too much to ask how many of those 10 deaths occurred in Cumbria but it is top of my list of questions for Prof Ashton, Cumbria's medical director.
So why all the fuss if there are so few deaths? Because the government has warned of 19,000 deaths over the winter and it would be useful to know if only women were dying or only people in their 20s were dying or if only cyclists living in Whitehaven are dying. They're not. But without any information, how do we know?! And why are medical authorities so scared of releasing even basic data?

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