Weekly influenza statement, 3 February 2011
3 February 2011
Latest figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) indicate that flu activity has declined across the UK and is now below baseline levels in England, Wales and Scotland.
In the past week, the number of number of GP consultations in England has fallen to 24.1 per 100,000, down from 40.7 per 100,000 the previous week. The baseline level is 30 per 100,000 and the peak level was 124.4 per 100,000 in the flu report dated 30 December.
The predominant strain in circulation is now influenza B which has overtaken influenza A H1N1 2009 ‘swine flu’. The numbers of flu B cases, however, are also declining. There are very few sporadic cases of influenza A H3N2. This drop in activity is consistent across all the surveillance systems that are used to look at levels of flu.
The total number of people who are reported to have died from flu in the UK since the season began in October has reached 395. The vast majority of the new deaths reported today (57) did not occur in the past week but will have occurred over the past six weeks. As a result of the verification process they have only been confirmed this week.
Of the 352 cases with information on age, 11 were aged less than five years; 14 were aged between 5-14; 254 aged between 15-64 and 73 were older than 64 years.
Where information is available on the fatal cases, 215 out of 299 (72 per cent) were in a clinical 'at risk' group for vaccination. Where information on vaccine status was available for this season’s trivalent vaccine, 91 out of 127 (72 per cent) had not received their jab this season.
Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA, said: "Our latest flu report shows that levels of flu activity are now below baseline levels in England, Wales and Scotland.
“However our surveillance will continue and we will still be monitoring what is happening to both the levels of consultations for flu-like illness and testing viruses until the end of the season in May.
“Although the peak of flu activity has passed, there will still be some flu viruses circulating and it is important that people remember to practice good cough and hand hygiene such as covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze, and then disposing of these as soon as possible to stop it spreading in the community.”
Notes to editors
- Throughout the flu season the HPA published weekly figures on flu and flu-like illness on a Thursday afternoon via its weekly flu report. To view the latest report, visit the HPA website.
- The Department of Health now publishes its Winterwatch report which reports on how well the NHS is coping with winter pressures and has practical advice. This can be found at the following link http://winterwatch.dh.gov.uk/
- The flu H1N1 (2009) virus, formerly known as 'swine flu', is now one of the group of seasonal flu viruses circulating around the world. Following a pandemic, it is often the case that the pandemic strain becomes the most common seasonal strain of influenza the next flu season, so it is not surprising to see H1N1 (2009) circulating this winter.
- This year's seasonal flu vaccine includes a H1N1 (2009) component so that people who are vulnerable are protected against all the circulating strains. For the first time the seasonal vaccine is being offered to pregnant women as they were disproportionally affected by the H1N1 (2009) strain during the pandemic and are more at risk of serious complications.
- The seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for those aged 65 or over and those with the following conditions, regardless of age: chronic respiratory disease, heart disease, renal disease and chronic liver disease, diabetes requiring insulin or oral hypoglycaemic drugs, immunosuppression. Vaccination is also recommended for pregnant women, those living in long-stay residential care homes, health care workers and carers.
- Symptoms of seasonal flu include sudden onset of fever, cough as well as sore throat, aching muscles and joints. The Department of Health has recently confirmed guidance on the use of antiviral drugs for the management of people who are displaying flu symptoms, this includes previously healthy people as well as those in ‘at risk’ groups.
- Antivirals are drugs given to high risk patients who become ill with seasonal influenza. They are most effective if taken within 48 hours of onset and may help limit the impact of some symptoms and reduce the potential for serious complications. They are also used in some situations where it is important to help prevent people from getting influenza.
- If you are suffering from flu you can use NHS Direct colds and flu symptom checker available at www.nhs.uk/nhsdirect or call 0845 4647. For further information on flu go to: http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/SeasonalInfluenza/
- For media enquiries please contact the national HPA press office at Colindale on 020 8327 7098/6647/6690, out of hours 020 8200 4400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Last reviewed: 9 February 2011