The number of patients being hospitalised with flu has jumped by more than 40% in the space of a week, Public Health England (PHE) has reported.
In its latest weekly report on the number of influenza cases, PHE said there were 472 hospitalised confirmed influenza cases in the week leading up to 8 December – up from 330 cases the week before.
The number of cases is also higher than last year when there were just 50 hospitalisations as a result of flu.
PHE said influenza activity is at ‘moderate’ intensity and confirmed that eight flu-related deaths occurred this week in the UK.
The PHE report added: ‘The impact of flu on healthcare services is moderate intensity levels for hospitalisations and above baseline for intensive care unit / high dependency unit influenza admissions.’
‘Above usual levels’ in primary care
Meanwhile, the rate of influenza-like illness reported in primary care is above usual levels for the first time this season, according to PHE.
GPs in participating practices reported consulting 13 patients per 100,000 population with influenza-like illness – an increase from last week’s 10.6 patients with flu-like symptoms per 100,000 registered population.
The report also calculated the provisional proportion of flu vaccination uptake in GP practices in England, but did not include data from community pharmacies.
The results show, in 93% of reporting practices, that almost 70% (68.5%) of over 65-year-olds had received the 2019/20 influenza vaccine, and 39% of pregnant women and 37% of patients under 65 years old in a clinical risk group.
The British Medical Association (BMA) warned earlier in October that the NHS was set for the worst ever winter, in response to A&E performance statistics. Recent NHS Digital data confirmed the warnings, revealing that A&E waiting times were the worst on record.
Earlier this month, community pharmacists were issued an alert, authorising them to supply antiviral medicines at the earliest point in a decade, due to an increase in influenza cases.