24 January 2013
Latest figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) up to 24 January 2013 show that flu activity has decreased compared to the previous week based on a number of indicators, including GP consultation rates in England and the proportion of calls to NHS direct.
The number of laboratory confirmed cases of norovirus have also fallen again over the last week with 233 cases being reported during the first week of January and 168 in week two.
The latest figures show that GP consultation rates in England have decreased from 24.8 per 100,000 last week to 13.6 this week. Rates have also decreased in Northern Ireland (53.7 down from 72.4), Scotland (33.8 down from 52.22) and Wales (11.2 down from 26.1).
Calls received by NHS Direct for cold and flu remained stable below the threshold of 1.6 per cent and the calls for fever in five to 14 year olds increased slightly but remained below the flu threshold of 11.7 per cent.
There have been 4,720 confirmed cases of norovirus so far this season (from the beginning of July 2012 to January 13, 2013). This is 49 per cent higher than the number of cases reported to the same point last year when there were 3,168.
During the two weeks up to 22 January there were 24 hospital outbreaks of suspected or confirmed norovirus reported, compared to 39 in the previous fortnight, bringing the total of reported outbreaks for the season to 786 (64 per cent of which were laboratory confirmed as due to norovirus).
Dr Richard Pebody, head of seasonal flu surveillance at the HPA said: “Flu activity is continuing to decrease across the UK. However, this does not necessarily mean we have seen the end of the season and there are still several months of winter ahead of us. It is very important that everyone does their best to prevent the spread of the flu virus by maintaining good cough and hand hygiene such as covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze, disposing of the tissue promptly and washing your hands as soon you can.”
John Harris, an expert in norovirus from the HPA said: “Norovirus activity always varies from year to year. The busiest times are usually between December and April but we cannot predict what is going to happen as the season progresses. We expect to see further cases but we can’t say if there will be further significant peaks.”
Norovirus can be transmitted by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, by contact with an infected person, or by the consumption of contaminated food or water. Symptoms of norovirus include a sudden onset of vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Some people may have a temperature, headache and stomach cramps. The symptoms only last for a couple of days and there are no long-term effects. Maintaining good hand hygiene is also important to help prevent it spreading.
Last reviewed: 24 January 2013