31 January 2013
Latest figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) up to 31 January 2013 show that flu activity remains at a similar level 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 150 cases being reported during week three (ending Sunday 20 January) compared to 177 in week two.
The latest figures show that GP consultation rates have decreased in England from 13.6 per 100,000 last week to 11.1 this week and in Northern Ireland (47.9 down from 53.7). Rates have increased slightly in Scotland from 33.8 per 100,000 last week to 40.5 this week and remained stable in Wales with 11.2 per 100,000 last week and 10.5 this week.
Calls received by NHS Direct for cold/flu and fever remained stable below their thresholds of 1.6 per cent and 11.7 per cent respectively.
There have been 4,892 confirmed cases of norovirus so far this season (from the beginning of July 2012 to January 20, 2013). This is 41 per cent higher than the number of cases reported to the same point last year when there were 3,458.
During the two weeks up to 29 January there were 19 hospital outbreaks of suspected or confirmed norovirus reported, compared to 24 in the previous fortnight, bringing the total of reported outbreaks for the season to 813 (64 per cent of which were laboratory confirmed as due to norovirus).
Dr Richard Pebody, head of seasonal flu surveillance at the HPA said: “Overall flu activity has decreased compared to the previous week.
“Vaccination against flu is still the most effective way of preventing the virus in people who are in an ‘at risk’ group, as they are more vulnerable to developing complications from flu. This includes people with underlying conditions such as heart problems, diabetes, lung, liver or renal diseases and those with weakened immune systems, as well as older people and pregnant women.
“It still remains 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: “Our latest norovirus figures have shown that activity has continued to fall for another week. Levels of norovirus vary from year to year but the busiest times are usually between December and April. We cannot predict what is going to happen as the season progresses but would 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.
This is the last weekly statement we will issue for norovirus and flu unless there is any significant change to the levels circulating.
Last reviewed: 31 January 2013