NEWS

Age of swine flu victims on the rise

As the number of deaths in Greece from swine flu rose to 93 yesterday, experts noted that the average age of those contracting the potentially deadly virus is rising. According to the Center for Infectious Diseases Control (KEEL), the average age of people diagnosed with swine flu has risen to 57.5 years over the past week, as compared to 49.5 years in the middle of December. The rise in the average age of swine flu patients could partially explain a recent increase in the fatality rate, according to authorities who recorded 17 deaths since the beginning of the month out of the total of 93 fatalities since the first outbreak of the virus in Greece in May. According to Eleni Giamarellou, a member of an advisory council for swine flu set up by the Health Ministry, hospital admissions of people with swine flu symptoms remained «steady.» Around 55 patients with severe symptoms of the H1N1 virus are in intensive-care units, she said. Despite reports of the spread of the pandemic slowing in Greece, Giamarellou stressed that the flu remained «unpredictable» and issued a fresh appeal to citizens in high-risk groups – such as the elderly and people working with young children – to get the H1N1 vaccine. According to official statistics, only around 200,000 out of an estimated 1.5 million people in high-risk groups have received the jab. Giamarellou noted that those with serious symptoms of swine flu should take the necessary antiviral drugs within 48 hours of the symptoms appearing. Meni Malliori, a high-ranking official of KEEL, said that the number of swine flu victims and fatalities in Greece «is certainly not low.» «We would have far fewer deaths if more people had received the flu vaccine,» she said. Of the 93 people to have died after contracting the virus, at least 80 percent had been suffering from other underlying ailments, according to the Health Ministry.