The latest Public Health England (PHE) report published at 2pm on Thursday 3 January 2019, suggests that influenza is starting to circulate in the community and is at moderate levels. The statistics show that over the last week, the flu hospitalisation and intensive care admission rates have both increased from 1.06 to 1.96 per 100,000, and from 0.19 to 0.29 per 100,000 respectively.
The GP consultation rate with flu-like illness has remained similar to the previous week, at 8.4 per 100,000. However, these levels are as we would expect at this time of year.
The main subtype circulating is influenza A(H1N1)pdm09, which is well matched to the strain included in this season’s vaccine. No statistically significant excess all-cause mortality by week of death has been seen yet overall or by age group in England this season.
Richard Pebody, Head of Flu at Public Health England said:
We have seen a rise in several of the flu indicators we track in the last week which suggests flu is now circulating in the community in England.
This year, we’ve offered a more effective ‘adjuvanted’ vaccine to those aged 65 years and over; a ‘quadrivalent’ vaccine, which helps protect against four strains of flu, to those aged 18 to 64 with underlying health conditions, and further roll-out of the nasal spray vaccine to an extra school year, as part of the children’s flu vaccine programme.
Uptake of the flu vaccine in pre-school age children is at its highest ever level, and rates of vaccination among eligible adults are similar to recent seasons. We are currently seeing mainly A(H1N1)pdm09 circulating which is well matched to the strains in this year’s flu vaccines.
The best form of protection against flu is to get the vaccine if you are eligible and to practice good respiratory and hand hygiene.
The flu virus can live for many hours on hard surfaces, and therefore practising good hand hygiene can limit the spread of germs and transmission of flu.
People with flu-like symptoms are advised to catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue, bin it, and then wash their hands afterwards with soap and warm water to kill the germs. Practising good hand hygiene and giving eligible people the flu vaccine is the best defence against the virus.
People should frequently clean used surfaces to stop the spread of flu. Avoid having unnecessary contact with other people if you or they have symptoms of flu. Seasonal flu usually circulates for several weeks each year.
The intensity of circulation depends upon the underlying population immunity, the circulating viruses and external factors such as the weather. It is an unpredictable virus and it is not possible to anticipate how flu levels will progress.
Amongst other diseases like norovirus that normally increase during winter, seasonal flu puts extra pressure on the NHS every year.
The weekly national flu reports track seasonal flu and other seasonal respiratory illnesses in the UK. Currently, 69.7% of adults over 65, 44.7% of adults with a long-term health condition, 43.6% of pregnant women, 43.0% of 3-year-olds, 41.5% of 2-year-olds and 61.0% of healthcare workers have received the vaccine.