Health experts suggest flu season has arrived early, as hospital cases rise

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Wednesday 26th October 2022

Health experts have suggested that flu season has arrived early in England, as hospital cases continue to rise. Statistics show that there has been a sharp increase in the number of cases of flu in the last week, indicating that the UK could be in for a significant wave this winter. There are fears that immunity to the common seasonal illness will be lower than normal, due to a decrease in infection levels during the pandemic. 

Flu infection levels are low compared to the numbers usually seen in the winter months, but the rise in cases in the last week suggests that cases are likely to continue to increase in the weeks ahead. The peak could be a lot higher than usual during the depths of winter when flu is most common.  According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the number of hospital admissions has increased notably in the last week. The most dramatic rises have been identified in young children under the age of 5. Hospitalisations have also increased in the elderly.

The rise in flu cases has prompted health officials to issue another plea for those who are eligible for a flu vaccine to come forward for their jab. Flu jabs are widely available and they are free of charge for those included in the NHS flu vaccination programme. This includes adults who are aged over 50, people who have underlying health conditions, pregnant women, carers and people who live with vulnerable individuals. Flu vaccines are also available for children, including young children aged 2 and 3, primary school children, some secondary school children and teenagers who have underlying health issues. Flu is a seasonal illness, which usually causes relatively mild symptoms in fit and healthy individuals. In some cases, it can cause severe illness and it can even be fatal. Symptoms of flu include a fever, a sore throat, muscle aches and pains, feeling exhausted, a cough, a loss of appetite, changes in bowel habits, nausea and vomiting. 

It is particularly beneficial for those who are eligible for the flu vaccine to have their jab in the run-up to the winter months, as health experts have raised concerns about a ‘twindemic’ this year. Flu rates are expected to rise steeply in the coming weeks and rates of Covid infection are also high. People who have flu or Covid are more likely to develop more severe symptoms if they then contract the other virus. Vaccination is an effective way to reduce the severity of both flu and Covid symptoms. Many people have already been contacted about Covid and flu jabs but officials are eager to encourage anyone who is eligible and hasn’t yet had their injections to make an appointment. In many cases, patients will be able to have both vaccines at the same time. 

In the UK, more than 40 million people will be offered a flu jab this year, as experts prepare for a tough winter. Studies conducted in Southern Hemisphere countries show that flu rates were much higher than in previous years and officials expect a similar pattern to emerge in the Northern Hemisphere this winter. 
Hospital admissions are increasing quickly among under 5s and the elderly. Figures show that the admission rate was 1 per 100,000 patients during the week ending October 16th. This is the highest number in mid-October for many years, which suggests that flu season has arrived early. Dr Mary Ramsay has urged parents to make sure that their child is vaccinated if they are eligible for a flu jab and encouraged adults who are yet to have a flu or Covid jab to come forward. There has been a small decrease in Covid cases and hospitalisations in the last week, but Dr Ramsay stressed that there is “no room for complacency.”