In the UK, while general levels of suspected swine flu seem low, a surge in severe cases already exceeds the peak levels of last year in some areas ... and has medical leaders worried they can't handle the potential caseload. Already, 15 patients have died and more than 100 are in intensive care.
From The Independent:
Intensive care specialists said that the NHS was under greater pressure than 12 months ago. There has been a surge of cases admitted to hospital in the last 10 days and in the North-west the numbers are above those at the peak of last year's pandemic.
...In the North-east, the situation is "as bad as or worse than" at the peak last year, according to public health specialists. Most of those affected are aged 18-35.
...The numbers of severely ill patients have taken specialists by surprise because monitoring suggests low levels of swine flu in the community.
...Bob Winter, president of the Intensive Care Society and a consultant in Nottingham, said: "Something different is happening this year. The last 10 days have seen a sudden surge of activity. The numbers in intensive care are increasing across the UK. In the north west they are more than at the peak of the pandemic.
"We have told the Department of Health that this is emerging as a serious issue. We suggested the groups convened last year for swine flu critical care planning should be reconvened. The disease seems disproportionately severe."
Richard Firmin, director of the the UK's main ECMO centre at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, with five beds, said: "It is very busy, even busier than last year. The way we are headed we are not sure we will have enough capacity. We have 15 beds open altogether – we didn't need more than 12 last year. We have pretty much activated all those who can do it.
"No one was expecting it to be worse this year than last year."
...[Dr Firmin added,] "We have already had to escalate [provision of ECMO beds] two steps beyond what we had last year. Things are at least as bad as they were last year in intensive care generally, as well as ECMO. What we don't know is whether this is the peak or there is worse to come. Our feeling is it is probably going to get worse. If it gets a lot worse we could be in a lot of difficulty."