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Flu rates high and still rising in parts of England

GPs remain under pressure from flu across the UK, with cases presenting to GP practices continuing to rise in parts of England, latest official data reveal.

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Official data confirm that the UK is currently undergoing its most severe flu outbreak since the start of the decade.

However, in the week to 28 February flu rates fell in all four UK countries, but remain at a ‘high’ or ‘medium’ level on the official epidemic measurement scale.

The number of GP consultations per 100,000 for England fell by the smallest amount, from 54.1 to 52.1, as the ‘levelling out’ of the flu outbreak reported last week continued.

GP consultations

However, rates of flu consultations rose in London and in the Midlands and East regions of England – and the Midlands and East is now experiencing the highest levels of flu in the country – at 59.3 consultations per 100,000.

Despite London’s increase, the consultation rate remains at 46.9 per 100,000 – the lowest of the four English NHS regions.

RCGP vice chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne said: ‘We have seen a decrease in the overall number of flu presentations in general practice across England which is good news, but it is only slight, and, in fact, London and the Midland and East regions have seen increases in the past week.

‘General practice is still under considerable pressure as we deal with these flu presentations in our surgeries and this latest data shows we’re still not out of winter pressures yet as the influenza virus can be very unpredictable.’

GP pressure

Professor Simon de Lusignan, medical director for the RCGP’s Research and Surveillance Centre, said: ‘Today’s figures show that rates of ILI (influenza-like illness) presentations in general practice have flattened off, but influenza B – the predominant strain – is still circulating, and we need to remain cautious about rates increasing again over the coming weeks.’

Acting head of the Public Health England respiratory diseases department Richard Pebody said: ‘We are continuing to see flu circulate, with signs that flu activity is stabilising.

‘Rates of vaccination across all those eligible for the vaccine have increased on last season and we have vaccinated an additional 1.5m people. We are currently seeing a mix of flu types, including the A(H3N2) strain that circulated last winter in the UK and then in Australia and flu B.’

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