The number of cases of influenza-like illness rose in mid-December, according to figures released by PHE.
In the national influenza report released on 18 December, it is stated that, between 8 and 14 December consultations for flu-like illness increased in Wales to 9.6 per 100,000, but remained low in Scotland and Northern Ireland, at 10.6 per 100,000 and 15.5 per 100,000 respectively. Dr Richard Pebody, PHE's head of seasonal flu surveillance, said: 'We are starting to see increases in flu activity in both children and adults, indicating the start of this year's flu season.'
Influenza-like illness is used to describe cases where the patient presents with symptoms similar to the flu, but has not had their diagnosis confirmed by tests.
Across England, 40 outbreaks of influenza-like illness were reported between 8 and 14 December. Of that number, 17 were in the north of England, nine in the midlands and east of England, four in London, and 10 in the south of England. Dame Sally Davies, England's chief medical officer, said: 'The NHS is well prepared for the flu season, and although flu levels remain relatively low, we are starting to see increases. Prevention is better than cure, and the increase in flu activity means it is even more important to get your flu jab if you are in an at-risk group.'
PHE reports that 70.6 per cent of people aged 65 and over have been vaccinated, but only 47.1 per cent of those aged under-65 with a health condition and 41.6 per cent of pregnant women have been vaccinated. In addition, 34.8 per cent of all two year olds, 37.3 per cent of three year olds and 29.3 per cent of four year olds have received the nasal spray vaccine as part of the childhood flu immunisation programme. Dr Pebody added: 'People in 'at risk' groups can get the vaccine for free as they are at much greater risk of becoming seriously unwell if they catch flu, and sadly many end up in hospital.'