In a follow-up on the flu situation in the United Kingdom this season, seasonal flu activity levels have continued to increase in the last week across the UK but various indicators show the rate of increase is slowing, according to a Public Health England (PHE) report.
The statistics show over the last week there has been an 11% increase in the flu hospitalization rate, a 42% increase in the GP consultation rate with flu-like illness compared to the previous week (when practices were open for 4 days), and an 8% reduction in the flu intensive care admission rate. The main strains circulating continue to be flu A(H3N2), A(H1N1) and Flu B.
The report also shows that in weeks 50, 2017 to week 2 of 2018, statistically significant excess mortality from all causes is now being observed in over 65s in England. Although this currently remains lower than the excess mortality observed last season and in 2014 to 2015. These excess deaths cannot with certainty be attributed to specific causes, but flu and the very cold weather that some areas have seen since Christmas are likely to be contributing factors.
Professor Paul Cosford, Medical Director, Public Health England said:
Our data continues to show that more people are visiting GPs with flu symptoms and we are seeing more people admitted to hospital with flu.
In terms of hospital admission, this is the most significant flu season since the winter of 2010 to 2011 and the preceding pandemic year of 2009 although it is not an epidemic.
While this is the most significant flu season since 2010 to 2011 in terms of GP activity, the hospital indicators taken overall suggest that it is, however, less severe at this stage than 2010 to 2011. And in terms of the impact on mortality, we have not reached yet the levels seen in 2014 to 2015 and 2016 to 2017.
Seasonal flu usually circulates for several weeks each year. The intensity of circulation depends upon the underlying population immunity, the circulating viruses and external factors such as the weather. It is an unpredictable virus and it is not possible to anticipate how flu levels will progress.