MORE THAN 60,000 people could contract swine flu in just seven days if Kirklees is hit by an epidemic.
That means one in six of the population could be affected by an outbreak.
Those figures were in the ‘worst-case’ scenario in a new report released by NHS Kirklees health chiefs.
And even the ‘best case’ scenario predicts that more than 38,000 could become victims.
The swine flu outbreak expected in the autumn is likely to hit 30% of Kirklees’ population during the course of the illness.
Yorkshire Strategic Health Authority predicts up to 63,982 swine flu attacks (per Kirklees’s estimated 403,900 population) in seven days during the fifth and sixth week of a local epidemic.
Yorkshire SHA also anticipates 38,469 people (9.5% of Kirklees’ population) will become ill with swine flu within seven days at the peak of a ‘best case’ scenario. This would take place during the eighth and ninth week of an outbreak.
But the report said it was currently impossible to predict when the outbreak would occur.
It added it would be impossible to identify a peak in infections until two to three weeks later.
The most recent data from the Government showed the number of swine flu cases across the country almost doubled in a week, from an estimated 5,000 to 9,000, prompting speculation a second wave of infections could be on its way.
Young people (aged five-24) are most likely to become infected. People over 65 are half as likely to contract the virus but twice as likely to development complications from the illness.
The Government is hoping to start vaccinating millions of people in high-risk groups, such as those with asthma and diabetes, and health workers, next month.
Across the UK, 82 deaths have been linked to the virus, with 70 in England, nine in Scotland, one in Wales and two in Northern Ireland.
NHS Kirklees, which manages health services within the local authority, predicts a rise of up to 12% in absence from work because of swine flu with workers taking about 10 days off sick.
If schools close, the report said, an additional 15% of the workforce could be absent to care for their children.
But a spokesman for NHS Kirklees, says it has ‘robust’ plans for coping with an epidemic and reassured people that things could be better than predicted.
The spokesman said it was important for the NHS to plan for the best and worst case scenarios.
It added swine flu epidemics in other parts of the world, for example, Australia had been closer to the ‘best case’ scenario.
The trust said it would have extra staff on standby and a system to monitor potential staff shortages.
Front-line employees will be immunised and contractors given protective gear and training.
The spokesman said an extra 72 hospital beds within the private sector had been earmarked for emergency use and a further 20 respite beds could be used for intermediate care.
Buildings have been set aside to be used as temporary mortuaries.
A voluntary ‘flu friend’ service is also planned to assist flu patients without access to friends and family.
Pharmacies have already handed out more than 6,000 doses of anti viral drugs and special centres, closed because of a fall-off in demand, could be quickly reopened.
The report said: “Planning is underway to ensure the NHS and its partners can cope with these challenges and provide essential services throughout.
“There are robust plans for flu in place for Kirklees. This has been co-ordinated across the health and social care economies, fostering extremely good collaboration and understanding of each other’s roles.
“This report demonstrates the efforts that are going into ensuring that we are ready for the next and subsequent waves of the pandemic and can respond rapidly to minimise disruption and maintain essential services.”
Kirklees Council said it was preparing to mitigate the effects of swine flu on its 19,000-strong workforce.
A spokesman for the Council said: “We have well-established business continuity plans to make sure essential services are not disrupted.
“Absence rates will be monitored closely and, if necessary, staff can be moved to where they are needed most – our priority is to keep services running smoothly, in particular for the more vulnerable members of the community.
“We are working alongside health service colleagues so that employees and residents are supported in every way possible.
“We have looked into all our business continuity plans to make sure they are appropriate for dealing with swine flu and any impact it may have on the council.”