SOARING numbers of Brits have been hit by Japanese flu in the last week, amid an Aussie flu outbreak.
In the last week flu deaths have gone up by half with 27 new fatalities – bringing the total deaths this winter to 85, new figures confirmed today.
Last week around 4,000 people were admitted to hospital with flu – up 51 per cent on the previous seven days, and almost four times higher than the same week last year.
More than 80 per cent (2,000 patients) are suffering influenza B, the vast majority caused by Japanese flu, the latest figures reveal.
Another 842 people were admitted with deadly Aussie flu, with 18 fighting for their lives in intensive care with the H3N2 strain.
The 18-year-old was airlifted to hospital in Inverness, where she passed away last Friday, after falling ill at home in the Scottish Highlands.
Health officials renewed their pleas for people to have the flu jab, adding “it’s not too late to protect yourself and your family”.
Experts warned yesterday Japanese flu is rife, posing a particular threat to kids.
Of 180 flu tests carried out by Public Health England so far this winter, 63 tested positive for Aussie flu, 63 identified the strain of influenza B known as Japanese flu, while 50 detected swine flu.
While Japanese flu appears to be infecting more people across the UK, Aussie flu poses a greater threat, experts warn.
Professor Paul Cosford, medical director at PHE, said: “The A(H3N2) strain – Aussie flu – particularly affects older, more vulnerable age groups.
“We encourage anyone who is eligible to take up their offer of the flu vaccine – it is not too late.”
FLU-ED UP What is Japanese flu, what are the symptoms and how is it different to Aussie and regular flu?
Meanwhile England’s top doctor, professor Dame Sally Davies, said the virus poses a real threat.
She said: “Flu can kill and it is important we all take it seriously.
“The best way to protect yourself and those around you is to get the flu jab.
“If you’re suffering from flu-like symptoms you should catch your coughs or sneezes in tissues, bin the tissue immediately, and wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water.”
The surge in flu cases is putting more pressure on hospitals amid one of the worst NHS winter crises in years.
Yesterday, experts told The Sun Online Aussie flu symptoms are likely to be more severe than swine flu, which triggered the last major flu pandemic in the winter of 2009/10.
Some 4.5million people were thought to have been struck by flu, according to the online tool FluSurvey.
Earlier this week the map revealed the deadly H3N2 strain was feared to have spread to all parts of the UK, following a surge in flu cases.
NHS figures for the previous week showed that 1,078 people have been admitted to hospital with flu since October across 19 NHS trusts – of those 252 people were diagnosed with Aussie flu, a new mutation of the virus.
It meant across the UK around 3,800 people ended up in hospital with flu – with about 1,000 of those thought to be battling the “Aussie” H3N2 strain.
Kids are known as “super-spreaders” because they pick up and pass on infections to their family.
Leading flu expert, professor John Oxford, a virologist from Queen Mary University of London, said: “Now is the danger period.
“With the situation in France and children going back to school, it could well be a double-whammy and fuel further cases.
“Common sense will tell you that with large numbers travelling backwards and forwards from France, we may see more cases.
“And kids are very good at picking up infections from each other and then passing them on at home.
“It’s not the best situation to have simultaneously.”
Professor Robert Dingwall, a flu expert at Nottingham Trent University told The Sun Online the UK must brace itself for the flu crisis to “get worse before it gets better”.
While it’s still early in the flu season, he warned “we have good reason to think it could be the worst winter for ten to 15 years, if not decades”.
“GPs are seeing a lot more flu after opening again after Christmas,” he said. “We have every reason to suppose we will see more cases probably more severe cases, and probably more deaths.”
He warned the NHS is facing an unprecedented challenge, and urged businesses to have contingency plans ready, as the number of cases is expected to rise in the coming weeks.
NHS trusts may be forced to cancel non-emergency operations well into February, Prof Dingwall told The Sun Online, as hospitals struggle to cope amid the winter crisis.
He added: “The French are having real problems and we are likely to see the same here within weeks.”
Part of the problem this year is the new H3N2 “Aussie” flu strain.
“Aussie flu poses a threat because we haven’t seen it before,” Prof Dingwall explained.
“So nobody has any protection (immunity against it), in the population.”
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