Is there a more dangerous strain of swine flu in the UK?

Recent reports indicate that the pandemic H1N1 virus is causing much more strain on the health care system in the United Kingdom this flu season than last year. For example, approximately 50% of all critical care beds are currently occupied by people infected with pandemic H1N1. And this is occurring early in the flu season. The peak in infections is likely weeks away.

Why this unprecedented pressure on the health care system in the UK? The relatively low rate of vaccination in the UK has been put forward as one explanation. However, no vaccine was available for the peak of infections in the previous flu season, so this cannot be the reason for the unprecedented number of very ill people this flu season. Advertising directed at improving hygeine was cut from the budget this year, but has recently been reinstated. If this is the reason for the difference, we should expect a dramatic reduction in cases in the near future. Last year, Tamiflu was easily obtained in the UK. However, there have been no media reports indicating  that the policy on prescribing Tamiflu has changed this year.

The most disturbing possible explanation for the difference between last year and this year is that a new strain of pandemic H1N1 is now circulating in the United Kingdom. One argument in favor of this hypothesis is the disproportionate number of severe cases and deaths originating in North West England. Six people have died in Merseyside alone.

Flu viruses can become more dangerous in two ways: they can spread more easily and they can become more lethal. At this point, it is not possible to determine whether the pandemic H1N1 virus has changed in one or both of these ways in the United Kingdom. However, it is worth pointing out that a recent publication suggests that pandemic H1N1 has the potential to become more pathogenic.

From Ilyushina et al. 2010:

Our data showed that the acquisition of two nonsynonymous mutations in the HA (K154Q) and PA (L295P) genes resulted in rapid selection of the pandemic virus with improved replication and virulence.


We believe that surveillance should involve careful examination of the adaptive changes identified here as possible markers for enhanced morbidity of the pandemic viruses. In conclusion, our study demonstrates that the emergence of a more virulent A/H1N1 pandemic strain is possible.

To detect the subtle changes described in the paper above, it is essential that all 8 genomic segments be sequenced from fatal cases. Further, this data should be made immediately available to all scientists by depositing the sequences in one of the publicly available databases: EMBL, DDBJ or GenBank.


Ilyushina et al. (2010) Does Pandemic A/H1N1 Virus Have the Potential To Become More Pathogenic? mBio, Nov 16;1(5). pii: e00249-10.


2 thoughts on “Is there a more dangerous strain of swine flu in the UK?

  1. Not only have some hospitals been overwhelmed, but no doubt the hospital morgues have been as well, but unfortunately, if one topic is more censored than PanFlu cases and deaths, it is the situation in hospital morgues and the mortuary sector, isn’t it?

    Jan 15, 2011 “Swine flu: hospitals ‘gridlocked'”
    [snip] At least 10 major centres issued “black alerts” — the

    highest emergency warning — meaning they were at breaking point, forcing patients to be sent elsewhere

  2. Jan. 15, “Swine flu: hospitals ‘gridlocked'”
    [snip]At least 10 major centres issued “black alerts” — the highest emergency warning — meaning they were at breaking point, forcing patients to be sent elsewhere[snip] Hospitals in Cambridge and Norfolk were on “black alert” for more than two weeks.
    In the past 10 days, major hospitals in London, Liverpool, Surrey, Southampton, Peterborough, Derby, King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth issued the same warning.
    While many hospitals did not schedule non-emergency surgery during the Christmas and New Year period, in the past week dozens cancelled thousands of planned operations.
    Routine surgery was stopped at hospitals in Leicester, Sheffield, Macclesfield, Middlesbrough, Northallerton, Durham, Darlington, Bassetlaw, Belfast, Portsmouth, south Wales and many parts of London [snip]

    Not only have some hospitals been overwhelmed by PanFlu this year, but no doubt (since govts are not using ‘Declared Pandemic’ protocols, despite ‘flu’ deaths still not being anywhere near back to at least ‘90% over age 65’,) hospital morgues have been overcrowded also; due to lack of vaccinations and due to malpractice in not giving all ‘rapidly-worsening’ or ‘any lung involvement panflu-symptomatic cases timely Antivirals, and, due to ‘normal’ hospital patients waiting for beds and/or care.

    Jan. 20, 2011 “Patient left all day with two bodies”
    [snip] Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent [snip]
    “The system has failed us. The staff are just run off their feet. They are all trying to do a great job but they just cannot cope.” [snip]
    Not just the UK which has been having ‘flu’ surges which have helped put some hospitals over 200% capacity, either.
    Montreal, Canada, for instance:

    Jan 7, 2011 ” ‘A tsunami of measures’ to keep beds open”
    [snip] the Montreal area was hit with an earlier-than-usual spike in seasonal-flu cases [snip] “We’re relatively in the same situation as we were in last year, despite a 15-to-20-per-cent increase in demand for services.” [snip]
    Jan. 22, 2011 “No room at morgue for wife, man told”
    Izenberg says, he got such a jarring call at home about 9:30 p.m. on Jan 14 last week -which he paraphrased as ‘We’re busy. What can you do? When’s the funeral home coming? Because we’re overcrowded.’
    “I couldn’t believe my ears,” Izenberg said, given that he’d put a funeral home in charge of those arrangements more than 12 hours earlier. [snip]
    Within two hours of Krapec’s death, Izenberg had advised the Centre Funeraire Cote-des-Neiges, where the couple made pre-arrangements six months ago. Funeral director Roger Delage confirmed this, adding that he then contacted the General’s admitting department “two or three times” that morning, and into early afternoon, seeking the release of Krapec’s body. Each time, Delage said, he was told no, “because the paperwork has not been completed.” [snip]

    Why was there no room at hospital morgues?

    Where was the official person allowed to do ‘the paperwork’ at the overcrowded hospital morgue which made the mistake of calling the next-of-kin to ask that the body be taken away?

    Is this going on at every hospital,
    (since no one is admitting Pandemics are not over in a single year; 1918-1921 being the example for starters)
    when they have their surge in ‘flu’ cases,
    (and, in deaths too-often-under age 65) whether eventually disclosed, or, just covered up?

    Hard to tell: because if there is a topic govts, media, and others are even more eager to ‘manage’/Censor
    than the honest situation on the ground with H1N1 and unnamed 2011 (Pan)Flu reassortments (or whatever goes on -full sequences?)

    it is the consequences of UnMitigation
    (more flu deaths plus more deaths from all causes because of impacted medical services)
    on the Mortuary sector, isn’t that so?

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