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First ever analysis into highest death rates for a decade

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Last year's flu jab did not adequately protect all Last year's flu jab was not effective against the flu strain and thus could be linked to the high death rates

The largest rise in the number of deaths in England and Wales in the last decade has been attributed to dementia, Alzheimer's and respiratory related deaths among the over 75s.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS), with support from Public Health England (PHE), have carried out the first ever analysis of the weekly and monthly death figures, after the 2015 provisional data showed the highest number of deaths in a single year since 2003 and the highest year on year percentage increase since 1968.

'The majority of the increase in deaths in 2015 happened during the first few months of they year, coinciding with an increase in hospital admissions for flu and reports of numerous outbreaks of the virus in care home,' said Claudia Wells, head of mortality analysis at ONS. 'Respiratory disease such as flu, were also mentioned in a third of deaths from dementia and Alzheimer's last year. The number of deaths where dementia and Alzheimer's were listed as the underlying cause have been steadily increasing over the last 15 years but were well above the five year average in 2015,' she added.

Last year there were 529,613 deaths registered in England and Wales, an increase of 28,189 (5.6%) compared with 2014 with 86% of the extra deaths occurring in the over 75s and 38% in the over 90s.

Professor John Newton, chief knowledge officer at Public Health England, said: 'A range of factors can push up the number of deaths in older people in a particular. An outbreak of flu can have impact, especially on those who are most vulnerable or experiencing other illnesses such as dementia. An increase in deaths will generally lead to a decrease in life expectancy that year, but we have seen these annual fluctuations before and the overall trend has remained positive'.

The Telegraph reported that PHE has admitted that the high level of flu-related deaths could be linked to the flu jab being ineffective against last year's flu strain.

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