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Flu cases rising

And cases of the winter vomiting bug norovirus pass the million mark
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Keith David Barnard

28th December 2012 - The number of cases of flu is continuing to rise, particularly among children, according to the latest figures.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) looked at data from visits to GPs, new admissions to intensive care or high dependency units and calls to NHS Direct for the week leading up to Christmas.

The GP consultation rate for flu-like illness in England was 27.4 people per 100,000, compared with 23.4 for the previous week. Flu consultation rates also rose elsewhere in the country with a rate of 19.7 people per 100,000 in Scotland, 18.9 per 100,000 in Wales and 25.5 per 100,000 in Northern Ireland.

Children and young people

Children aged five to 14 in particular have been the group most affected by flu this season.

The HPA says there were 21 new admissions to intensive care or high dependency units during the week ending on 23rd December. There were 38 acute respiratory disease outbreaks - 36 in schools and two in hospitals.

Dr Richard Pebody, head of seasonal flu surveillance at the HPA says in a statement: "We are continuing to see an increase in flu activity across several of our indicators but historically flu rates go up at this time of year so this is not unusual.

Flu jab

"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."

The HPA says that:

  • 71.7% of people in England aged 65 and over had received this season's flu jab by week 50
  • Among pregnant women, the provisional uptake was 39.6%
  • An estimated 40.8% of frontline healthcare workers had been vaccinated by the end of November

The HPA has described the uptake in vaccination as "encouraging".

Hand hygiene

People are being urged to wash their hands and throw used tissues away in a bid to limit the spread of flu and other winter illnesses like norovirus.

The ‘Catch It. Bin It. Kill It’ campaign will start on the 2nd January to remind people that good respiratory and hand hygiene is a simple way to stop bugs spreading.

Public Health Minister Anna Soubry says in a statement: "It’s likely that we’ll see an increase again when schools go back in the New Year. But we can all play a big part in limiting the spread of flu by taking these simple steps."

Symptoms of flu include sudden onset of fever, cough as well as sore throat, and aching muscles and joints. Experts say the best advice for treating flu in healthy people is to stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and take pain relievers such as paracetamol. Children under 16 should not take any medicines containing aspirin.

"If people in at risk groups develop symptoms consistent with flu, or if anyone’s symptoms persist or become more severe, we advise they seek medical advice," says Dr Pebody.

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