BRITS have been urged to protect themselves against the flu as cases and hospitalisations rise once more.
Rates remain the highest in children aged five to 14-years-old, data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has revealed.
Parents have also been urged to protect their children from the bug.
Another five Strep A deaths in children were recorded yesterday, taking the total to 24, with there being 94 deaths in total across all age groups since September.
Guidance states that Strep A infections spread by close contact with an infected person.
The weekly report from the UKHSA states that positivity rates of flu are at 40.1 per cent in kids aged five to 14.
Hospital admission rates and intensive care admission rates have increased further in the last week.
Figures show that the main increase in admissions has been seen in adults over the age of 85.
The highest number of outbreaks continue to be in care homes, with 54 influenza confirmed outbreaks occurring in England in the week ending December 18.
Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at UKHSA, said: “Hospitalisations have increased dramatically in those aged 75 and over in the past week, with admissions among children under 5 remaining high. ICU admissions have also increased this week.
“NHS services are already under pressure so it’s more important than ever to get protected with the flu vaccine and help keep yourself out of hospital.
“Most children aged 2 and 3 can get a nasal spray flu vaccine through their GP surgery. If you are pregnant or in a clinical risk group, you are also at greater risk, so it is even more important you take up the offer.
“Anyone over 50 can get a free flu or Covid-19 booster vaccine which can be booked online at nhs.uk/wintervaccinations.”
She added that we can all take actions to stop flu and other infections spreading.
“If you feel unwell try to stay home, and if you have to go out – wear a face covering in enclosed spaces. Wash your hands regularly and try to keep rooms well ventilated.”
The warning from the UKHSA comes after data from the NHS revealed hospital cases of the bug have doubled in a fortnight.
Hospital wards in England now have 2,515 infected patients, including 186 in intensive care.
It is more than double the 1,218 patients two weeks ago, on December 8, and a 70 per cent increase in a week.
By comparison, Covid patients are taking up 8,643 beds and 174 in ICU.
But coronavirus is rising at a slower rate, with cases increasing by 57 per cent in a fortnight compared to 106 per cent for flu.
The UK is currently blighted by common bugs that have not circulated for years due to lockdowns.
Scarlet fever cases in children, caused by the Strep A bacteria, are through the roof.
And experts have warned of a flu-like “super cold” that millions are struggling to shake.
Pressure from the winter virus “twindemic” is clogging up hospitals, adding to ambulance and A&E delays.
Waits were already at record highs even before winter pressures and strike action ramped up.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: “As well as the impact of industrial action, it is clear that the NHS is facing enormous pressure ahead of Christmas with the number of flu cases in hospital and in intensive care rising week-on-week.
“This is on top of significant increases in staff sickness rates and near-record demand for services like 111.
“With more industrial action scheduled for next week, there will be disruption but we urge the public to continue to use services wisely.”