Flu death toll rises to 120 this winter

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There were 17 further deaths from flu in the last week, taking the total number of flu-related deaths this winter to 120, the latest figures show.

Public Health England (PHE) also said there was an 11% increase in the flu hospitalisation rate, along with a 42% increase in the GP consultation rate with flu-like illness compared to the previous week.

But it also reported an 8% reduction in the flu intensive care admission rate and said that although cases of flu have increased, “various indicators show the rate of increase is slowing”.

Meanwhile, the Royal College of GPs said its Research and Surveillance Centre (RSC) found the number of people visiting their doctor with flu has gone up by more than 150% since the start of the year.

It said an estimated 31,300 patients attended their GP practice with influenza-like-illness (ILI) in England between January 8 and 14 – a rise of more than 9,000 on the previous week.

Health experts warned that the over 65s have been the worst affected.

Professor Paul Cosford, PHE medical director, 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 2010/11 and the preceding pandemic year of 2009 although it is not an epidemic.

“We are currently seeing a mix of flu types, including the A(H3N2) strain that circulated last winter in the UK and then in Australia. The A(H3N2) strain particularly affects older, more vulnerable age groups.

“The best form of protection against flu is to get the vaccine if you are eligible and to practise good respiratory and hand hygiene.”

RSC medical director, Professor Simon de Lusignan, said: “We’re seeing numbers of presentations of respiratory conditions change little this week, but unsurprisingly given what we’ve been hearing anecdotally from GPs, rates of influenza-like illness have risen again.

“Whilst flu rates in primary care are still within what we term the ‘medium threshold’, the virus does seem to be affecting patients aged over 65 most, with rates moving into the ‘very high threshold’.

“As ever, flu is unpredictable so it remains impossible to speculate how rates will change in the coming weeks – they may increase further, they may level out or even decline.”

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