Affected patients at Leicester Royal Infirmary put into isolation and given antiviral drugs as hospital wards they were in are closed. A hospital is dealing with a “significant” outbreak of swine flu among 14 cancer patients.
The patients on three wards at Leicester Royal Infirmary are being treated for the condition, while another three people with the illness – a child and two adults – are being treated at the city’s Glenfield hospital.
All 17 people have been diagnosed with having the H1N1 flu strain of influenza, better known as swine flu.
The affected patients at Leicester Royal Infirmary were immediately isolated when the discovery was made. They have been put into isolation and given antiviral drugs, as have people who come into contact with them. The wards they are in have been closed.
A swine flu epidemic in 2009 killed more than 100 people in Mexico and caused concern across the world as the number of confirmed cases in other countries rose daily.
Dr Philip Monk, consultant in communicable disease control with Public Health England in the East Midlands, said the 14 cases of swine flu at the infirmary had been confirmed on three haemotology wards.
He said: “On Monday, it was thought three people on the wards might have flu, and because these patients have very little immunity, it was decided to swab all patients and 14 were confirmed as positive.”
Cleaning has been stepped up in the affected areas and extra clinics are being held to vaccinate hospital staff. Dr Monk said the number of cases locally and nationally had been increasing over the past three weeks.
But, as he urged people to make sure they had a flu jab, he added: “It is far too early to tell how things will go.” He said: “This year’s flu vaccination is a good match for H1N1, and is the best way of stopping it from spreading.
“People can be quite poorly if they get this flu, but if they have had it they won’t get it again because they have built up an immunity.”
Dr Monk said that although it was still too early to tell how many people might be affected, it was hoped the number would be far fewer than in 2009. This was because, since then, more people would have had H1N1 and would have built up an immunity to the infection.
Liz Collins, lead nurse for infection prevention at Leicester’s hospitals, said: “We ask visitors who have cold and flu symptoms, such as a cough, runny nose or high temperature, to stay away from the hospital to avoid passing on their infections to our patients.”