Outbreaks of spring flu are at their worst for five years, with the illness spreading widely across the United Kingdom this season.
More than 320 people were admitted to hospital in the last two weeks – four times the normal figure, according to the statistics. PHE says flu “continues to circulate in the community late in the season, with several indicators remaining elevated”.
The data says the under-45s are most at risk, with children, pregnant women and adults with long-term conditions such as chronic heart disease particularly susceptible. Rates are highest in the 15 to 44 age group, followed by children aged five to 14.
Dr Richard Pebody, head of flu surveillance for PHE, said in a statement: "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.
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"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."
Last month, 14 cancer patients were hospitalised after contracting H1N1, commonly known as swine flu. The 2009 swine flu epidemic killed more than 100 people in Mexico.