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‘Worst winter flu outbreak in years strikes’ as hospitalisations surge 40% in a week

ELIGIBLE Brits have been urged to come forward for the flu jab after hospitalisations have surged.

For the first time since the pandemic began there are more people being admitted to hospital with flu than Covid.

This rise in flu hospitalisations come as thousands of nurses across the UK strike

Fresh figures from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) found that flu hospitalisations in England have jumped by more than 40 per cent in a week.

However, health officials do not believe the number of flu cases has yet peaked, suggesting more hospitalisations are likely.

The worrying data reveals rates have more than double among those most of risk to the virus – children under the age of five and in adults aged 85 and over.

Experts are warning that increased mixing indoors due to the cold weather is putting more people at risk to catching viruses like Covid, flu and the common cold.

The rise could not come at a worse time, as backlog of people waiting for surgery reaches 7.2million and nurses across the country strike in a bid for better pay,

Meanwhile vaccine rates in two and three year olds is below that seen in the previous two flu seasons and medics have said that this is the best protection against illness.

Dr Conall Watson, Consultant Epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “Flu is now circulating widely and we have seen a sharp rise in the rate of hospitalisations for flu this week, particularly among the under 5s and over 85s.

“Admissions are now at the highest point since the 2017/18 season and we are expecting case numbers to continue increasing as we move further into winter.

“The flu vaccine offers the best protection against severe illness and it’s not too late for everyone eligible to get it. Uptake is particularly low in those aged 2 and 3 so if your child is eligible please take up the offer.”

Taking up the vaccine is especially important, as the NHS says that viral infections such as the flu, put you at higher risk of Strep A infections.

Dr Jamie Lopez Bernal, the consultant epidemiologist for immunisation and counter-measures at the UKHSA, said: “We’re seeing rises in flu, Covid and other winter viruses as people mix more indoors this winter.

“Covid hospitalisations are highest in the oldest age groups, so it is particularly important that everyone who is eligible continues to come forward to accept their booster jab.

“If you are unwell this winter, please try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people, particularly elderly or vulnerable people – this will help stop infection from spreading.”

The NHS is also dealing with an outbreak of Strep A – which has so far killed 19 children.

The surge in cases is putting a huge strain on NHS 111 and pharmacists, with shortages of penicillin and other antibiotics reported across the UK.

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