The Leicester Royal Infirmary has closed three of its wards after 14 cancer patients were diagnosed with swine flu. The patients have been isolated to contain the spread of the virus.
At the same time, the Glenfield Hospital in Leicester is also treating three seriously ill patients for swine flu. The three patients are believed to have been brought to Leicester from other parts of the country, local media reported.
Staff and experts from Public Health England are investigating how the patients were infected by the H1N1 virus. Liz Collins, the lead nurse for infection prevention at University Hospitals of Leicester Trust said: "We have seen an increase in the number of flu cases in February, in both the community and across our hospital sites."
She said: "Fourteen patients on three haematology wards at Leicester Royal Infirmary have developed symptoms that have been confirmed as flu. All necessary precautions were taken and these patients have been isolated to avoid an outbreak."
She said visitors who have cold and flu symptoms, such as a cough, runny nose or high temperature have been advised to stay away from the hospital to avoid passing on their infections to the patients. A hospital statement said the origin of the virus was as yet unclear but noted that it is "likely to be from a visitor as this strain of flu is currently in the community."
Philip Monk, consultant in the communicable disease control for Public Health England in the east Midlands said: "It's not too late for children and people in 'at risk' groups to get the vaccine for free, and this remains important now that the flu is circulating." H1N1 particularly affects young children, pregnant women and adults with long term health conditions.
The Guardian says that provisional national data from Public Health England indicates that up to the end of January, the take-up for the flu vaccine in targeted groups in England was under 50% despite it being free. Figures from GP surgeries show that only 45% of under-65s at clinical risk because of long-term health conditions, 42% of pregnant women, 36% of two-year-olds, 38% of three-year-olds and 30% of four-year-olds have been vaccinated.