Five more die in flu epidemic

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The Independent Online
FIVE MORE elderly people have died of flu in a Salford hospital as new figures show the whole country now officially suffering an influenza epidemic, writes Nicholas Timmins.

Latest provisional figures from the Royal College of General Practitioners' monitoring unit show there were about 90,000 new cases of flu in England and Wales last week out of total of just over 200,000 since the outbreak began in earnest a month ago.

Some of the highest rates have been in Scotland, but yesterday's figures for England and Wales show 178 cases per 100,000 population last week against 122 the week before. But influenza rates remain below the 583 per 100,000 recorded at the peak in 1989.

The latest deaths - following 11 reported yesterday at two other hospitals - came on a ward at Ladywell hospital in Salford, Greater Manchester, where 14 out of 23 patients and three staff contracted flu and five patients died. The ward has since been closed.

The epidemic is relatively mild and has put some extra pressure on hospital admissions but there has been no need for 'red alert' emergency-only procedures.