Health: Flu and cold deaths up last winter

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The Independent Online
Almost a third more people died last winter than in previous winters as a result of low temperatures, colds and flu. Figures published by the Office of National Statistics in Population Trends, show that there were 49,000 extra deaths last winter, compared with the rest of the year - 29 per cent more than the 31,000 extra deaths during the previous three winters.

Most of the deaths were among people over 75, and in almost half respiratory illness was the main cause of death. Yet there was no more flu than in previous winters. Dr Douglas Fleming, director of the Royal College of GPs flu monitoring unit said the timing of last year's flu outbreak - in January when colds are at their worst and temperatures lowest - accounted for the worse mortality. "Last year's virus was one to which the elderly had poor resistance. It hit them rather badly."

The report also shows that the UK is set to be overtaken by France as the European Union's second-biggest member. Although UK population is predicted to grow from 58.5 million to more than 61 million over the next 30 years, a lower death-rate across the Channel means that there will be more French than Britons by about 2005.