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Levels of flu continue to rise in difficult week for health services

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PHE is encouraging anyone who hasn't received the vaccine to still do so at their local pharmacy or GP

Rates of flu in the UK continue to rise with flu hospitalisations up 50% last week, according to the latest figures by Public Health England (PHE).

The statistics, published last week, show a 78% increase in GP consultations relating to ‘flu like illness’ and a 65% rise in the intensive care admission rate for flu.

Prof Paul Cosford, Medical Director at PHE, said: ‘Our data shows that more people are visiting GPs with flu symptoms and we are seeing more people admitted to hospital with flu.’

The situation is being complicated by a variety of flu types spreading across the country, with the most common ones being flu A(H3N2), A(H1N1) and Flu B.

‘We are currently seeing a mix of flu types, including the A(H3N2) strain that circulated last winter in the UK and then in Australia. The A(H3N2) strain particularly affects older, more vulnerable age groups,’ added Prof Cosford.

‘We encourage anyone who is eligible to take up their offer of the flu vaccine – it is not too late. People suffering with flu-like symptoms should catch coughs or sneezes in tissues and bin them immediately, wash their hands regularly with soap and warm water and frequently clean regularly used surfaces to stop the spread of flu. Avoid having unnecessary contact with other people if you or they have symptoms of flu.’

Meanwhile, the Independent has today reported that more than ‘three million high-risk patients’ are yet to receive vaccinations that can prevent the flu, which they claim has already killed 85 people this winter.

The worst affected areas in the UK are York, Herefordshire and Gateshead, although a young woman has also died in Scotland, which has seen a doubling of flu cases in the last week, after her flu developed into pneumonia.

Currently, 71.3% of adults over 65, 46.9% of people with long-term health conditions and 45.5% of pregnant women have received the vaccine.

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Vaccines are the best protection we have against flu. As well as getting the jab from a pharmacy, patients can also book an appointment with their GP.’

Prof Cosford agreed that that vaccine is the best possible defence against the flu and stressed that it was not too late for people to receive the jab.

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