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Influenza

Volume 464: debated on Monday 15 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the cost was to the public purse of the Ipsos MORI research study on public engagement to inform the 2007 pandemic influenza national framework and supporting guidance, published on 30 May 2007; whether his Department is undertaking any other programmes of work to engage the public on plans to prioritise treatment in the event of an influenza pandemic; and if he will make a statement. (156772)

The cost of the research study on public engagement was £59,000. After the publication of the “National Framework for responding to an influenza pandemic” in the autumn, we will further test the public’s reactions to many issues in pandemic planning and decision-making. This will include issues of prioritisation of access, should that be necessary, to clinical countermeasures. Work continues on the design of a public engagement programme to facilitate this process.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will place in the Library a copy of the modelling referred to in the paper published on his Department's website on 8 August 2007 entitled Use of antiviral drugs in an influenza pandemic. (156774)

The modelling summary referred to in the antiviral paper has been placed in the Library and is available at:

www.advisorybodies.doh.gov.uk/sagpf/minutes/modelling-implications-summary-jan07.pdf.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the potential impact of an influenza pandemic on the (a) supply of and (b) demand for (i) blood and (ii) blood components; what steps he is taking to ensure an adequate supply of blood in the event of a pandemic; and if he will make a statement. (156778)

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), together with the Department modelling team, have created a series of planning assumptions based on the best available estimates of demand for blood, the experience within NHSBT and that of other blood services, and the best possible estimate of supply under these conditions. While supply is dependent upon donors continuing to make altruistic gestures during the pandemic the current estimate based on these assumptions is that, in the worst case scenario, supply could fall by about 20 to 30 per cent.

Likewise, the estimates that can be made for demand are based on best available evidence and current knowledge. NHSBT's conservative estimate is that current demand for red cells could fall by about 10 to 25 per cent., while the demand for fresh frozen plasma and platelets could reduce by lesser amounts, although it is possible that demand could fall further.

NHSBT has a well-developed emergency planning system, which includes specific plans covering pandemic influenza. NHSBT's plans are regularly reviewed and updated to keep them in line with the latest emerging guidance.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many deaths resulting from influenza infection there were in each year since 1979; what the population coverage of seasonal influenza immunisation was in each year since 1979; and in which years since 1979 there were epidemics of seasonal influenza. (156780)

It is not possible to determine the precise number of deaths due to influenza in a population because influenza itself is rarely the direct cause of death. Influenza may be complicated by bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, or may worsen an underlying illness, such as heart disease, and death results from the subsequent illness. In addition, by the time someone whose illness began with influenza gets to hospital, or dies, no evidence is apparent that the individual had influenza.

As a result, estimates of the number of deaths resulting from influenza epidemics are based on the number of deaths from all causes occurring during a period when influenza is circulating in the community, from which is subtracted the total number of deaths that would have been expected to have occurred in the absence of on influenza epidemic. This is generally referred to as the number of excess deaths due to influenza.

Estimates for excess deaths from influenza in England and Wales have been made by the Health Protection Agency for the 1988-89 to 2005-06 influenza seasons, and are given in the following table:

Estimated excess deaths due to influenza in England and Wales

Influenza season

Number of excess deaths

1988-89

358

1989-90

26,945

1990-91

8,125

1991-92

5,967

1992-93

1,687

1993-94

14,544

1994-95

2,480

1995-96

16,241

1996-97

21,770

1997-98

0

1998-99

17,982

1999-2000

22,040

2000-01

1,067

2001-02

7,078

2002-03

6,559

2003-04

5,207

2004-05

1,795

2005-06

0

Flu vaccine uptake in those aged 65 and over since 2000-01 is shown in the following table. Data were not held centrally prior to 2000-01.

Uptake in those aged 65 and over (Percentage)

2000-01

65.4

2001-02

67.5

2002-03

68.6

2003-04

71.0

2004-05

71.5

2005-06

75.3

2006-07

74.0

Epidemic years have been classified as those in which "higher than average seasonal activity" has occurred. Since 1979, the following seasons would be classified as epidemic using this definition: 1989-90, 1993-94, 1996-97, 1998-99 and 1999-2000.