The latest figures published yesterday (24 March 2016) indicate flu continues to circulate in the community late in the season, with several indicators remaining elevated in particular influenza confirmed hospitalisations amongst younger adults. The figures show 163 new admissions to ICU and HDU were reported in the week ending 13 March, a similar high rate to the previous week.
This is later activity than the 2014 to 2015 season, when hospitalisations for flu had already peaked in early January 2015.
Virus surveillance from the UK and elsewhere in Europe shows the strain A(H1N1)pdm09 has been the main flu virus this season with more recent evidence of increasing influenza B activity.
Previous flu seasons dominated by A(H1N1)pdm09 suggest this strain particularly affects children, pregnant women, and adults with long term conditions like chronic heart disease, liver disease, neurological disease and respiratory disease in particular.
Dr. Richard Pebody, head of flu surveillance for PHE said, “Although we’re nearing April and the perception may be flu season is over, we are seeing flu continue to circulate in the community, along with other seasonal illnesses like scarlet fever. For most people influenza infection is just a nasty experience, but for some it can lead to illnesses that are more serious, including bronchitis and secondary bacterial pneumonia, which can be life threatening.
“Although it is late in the season, vaccine may still be available from GPs and pharmacists for those in eligible risk groups who are unvaccinated. This includes children and adults with long term health conditions and pregnant women, so speak to your GP or pharmacist about the vaccine if you’re eligible and haven’t had it yet this flu season.
“It’s also important people, particularly those in vulnerable groups, remain aware of the risks of flu and practise good hand hygiene to prevent the spread of flu. For most people flu is generally a mild illness with recovery taking around a week without treatment. But people in vulnerable groups, or parents of children with flu should be aware of the risks of the virus, and contact their GP if they are concerned about their symptoms. People at high risk of the virus may need treatment with antivirals.”