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27 Dec 2012

UK, Health Protection Agency: Flu activity continuing to increase (December 27 2012)

[Source: Health Protection Agency, United Kingdom, full page: (LINK).]

Flu activity continuing to increase

27 December 2012


Latest figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) indicate that increases in flu activity continue to be seen across several indicators, including GP consultation rates, the proportion of calls to NHS Direct and new admissions to intensive care or high dependency units.

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

Dr Richard Pebody, head of seasonal flu surveillance at the HPA said: “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.

“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."

“Latest vaccine uptake figures for one of the ‘at risk’ groups – the over 65 age group – are encouraging, with more than 70 per cent taking up the offer of the flu vaccine. Among those in an ‘at risk’ group under 65 years of age, uptake is just under 50 per cent and around 40 per cent of pregnant women and healthcare workers have accepted the offer of vaccination this season.”

Symptoms of flu include sudden onset of fever, cough as well as sore throat, aching muscles and joints. 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.

Maintaining good cough and hand hygiene, such as covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze, disposing of the tissue as soon as possible and cleaning your hands as soon you can are important actions that can help prevent the spread of germs and reduce the risk of transmission. The HPA welcomes the launch of the Department of Health’s ‘Catch It. Kill It. Bin it.’ campaign to remind people to practise good respiratory and hand hygiene to prevent the spread of flu.

Dr Pebody, added: "Although unpleasant, flu is a self-limiting illness and if you have flu it is best to stay at home until you are well. 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."

“Every season we remain vigilant and assess the flu situation as more information becomes available from our various surveillance systems and from the different virus samples we receive from across the UK.”



Notes to editors

  1. For the full weekly flu report, please visit the HPA website's Seasonal Influenza page.
  2. Following HPA advice on the increasing levels of flu circulating, the Department of Health has issued guidance to GPs on the use of antiviral drugs for the management of people presenting with flu-like illness in England who are at higher risk of developing complications from flu.
  3. To see the current guidance for prescribing antivirals please go to: [external link]. It does not recommend antivirals for the prevention of flu in otherwise healthy people under 65, even if they have been in close contact with someone with a flu-like illness.
  4. For further information about the flu vaccination, including who should have it please visit the NHS website [external link].
  5. For information on why health care workers should receive the flu vaccine please visit the NHS Employers website [external link].
  6. The Health Protection Agency is an independent UK organisation that was set up by the government in 2003 to protect the public from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards. In April 2013 the Health Protection Agency will become part of a new organisation called Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health. To find out more, visit our website: or follow us on Twitter @HPAuk.
  7. For more information please contact the national HPA press office at Colindale on 0208 327 7901 or email Out of hours the duty press officer can be contacted on 0208 200 4400.

Last reviewed: 27 December 2012