Article Date: Tuesday 15 09 09 12:04 UTC|
Full Article: BBC NEWS | Fergus On Flu
If anyone wants to get an idea of what the next few months may be like in Britain, then Australia may give us some clues, having just come to the end of its first winter with swine flu (see yesterday's post).
I got an interesting perspective when I met Dr Dominic Dwyer, Professor of Virology at Westmead hospital in Sydney. Professor Dwyer divides his time between seeing patients, often in intensive care, and working in the virology lab.
I met him at the Department of Virology - Westmead has the main public health laboratory in New South Wales and works with the WHO on research and surveillance.
In common with the other doctors I met in Australia, Professor Dwyer had never experienced a winter flu season like this one:
"It's been absolutely massive for us here, we've been working essentially twenty hours a day trying to churn through all the samples to work out what's swine flu. I see the patients as well, and I must say I've never seen so much influenza activity."
Professor Dwyer said that H1N1 swine flu was the dominant strain circulating, but that other seasonal strains were also around. He confirmed that the vast majority of people infected did not get very sick, and the majority of those who got complications had underlying health problems. But he said it was "unpredictable", in that a small minority of otherwise healthy individuals got very sick indeed.
"It's been absolutely striking how severe the infection has been in a small proportion of people. So in our intensive care unit here in western Sydney, we had about a third of the unit filled with people with swine flu, and they were often young, younger than you might expect.
Normal influenza tends to to affect the elderly, but this is a disease that affects younger people mostly - so its been really very dramatic."
You can see more on all of this is in Panorama tomorrow evening, and in the video above (which is not in the TV programme), Professor Dwyer shows me round his labs.