CASES of the flu have surged across the UK, new figures have revealed.
It comes as 15 children have now died from deadly Strep A – with flu increasing your risk of developing the illness.
Figures from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) found that hospital and intensive care admissions have increased in the last week.
The highest positivity rate has been seen in those aged 15-44, with the under fives and those aged 75-84 being the highest group of hospital admissions.
Vaccine uptake in kids aged two and three is below the last two years, the figures show.
Parents have been urged to take up the offer of the flu nasal spray vaccine at school sessions or in community catch-up clinics.
It’s especially important, as the NHS says that viral infections such as the flu, make you more at risk of Strep A infections.
Guidance states that Strep A infections spread by close contact with an infected person.
They can be passed on through coughs and sneezes or from a wound.
Group A Streptococcus — Streptococcus pyogenes — is a bacteria that can cause mild illness.
This can include sore throats and skin infections, alongside tonsillitis, cellulitis, and scarlet fever, which is flu-like and tends to occur in children – it can be serious if not treated swiftly with antibiotics.
In rare cases, the bacteria can trigger invasive Group Strep A disease, which can prove life-threatening and even fatal.
UKHSA said that in the 2017/18 season, which is deemed to be the last high Strep A season, there were 355 deaths in total, including that of 27 children.
There have been 169 kids that have also contracted invasive Group Strep A (iGAS) this season, this compares to 431 that developed it in 2017/18.
And there were 851 cases of Group A streptococci in the week to November 20, compared to 186 on average in the same week in previous years.
There has been an increase in cases this year, particularly in children under the age of 10.
KNOW THE SIGNS
When it comes to the symptoms of flu and Strep A, they can be very similar. so it’s important to know what to look out for.
There are four key signs of Group Strep A to watch out for, according to the NHS. These are:
- A fever (meaning a high temperature above 38°C)
- Severe muscle aches
- Localised muscle tenderness
- Redness at the site of a wound
When it comes to symptoms of flu, they may at first, seem like a common cold.
The NHS list the symptoms for flu as follows:
- sudden high temperature
- aching body
- feeling tired or exhausted
- a dry cough
- sore throat
- difficulty sleeping
- loss of appetite
- diarrhoea or tummy pain
- feeling or being sick
- less active (specifically children)
- pain in the ear (specifically children)
Dr Conall Watson, Consultant Epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency said that with winter upon us, flu is circulating more widely.
“The NHS frontline has already delivered millions of vaccines to those most at risk from what can be a deadly virus.
“With Christmas fast approaching, if you are eligible and have not yet been vaccinated, it can take a fortnight or so for the flu vaccine to provide protection.
“Nobody wants to see their loved ones be sick or in hospital with flu over Christmas, so to ensure your family are ready to enjoy the festive season together don’t hesitate and book your vaccine today,” he added.
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