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Independents' Day

PHE warning as high number of patients visit GP with flu

The number of patients seeking out their GP with flu-like symptoms rose markedly over the holiday period, Public Health England data has shown.

Flu experts said the rapid rise was 'a major concern', especially in light of the Southern hemisphere having experienced its worst flu season for eight years during its winter season.

In the week leading to 28 December, the weekly influenza-like illness (ILI) GP consultation rate was 18.9 per 100,000 in England, compared to 11.4 per 100,000 in the week before.

PHE said this was above the baseline threshold of 13.1 per 100,000 for the season for England, adding that levels are also above baseline in Scotland and Wales but below the line in Northern Ireland.

The bulletin added: 'GP in-hours consultations for influenza-like illness (ILI) were increasing but remain within seasonally expected levels in week 51.

'There were increases in respiratory indicators across all systems, including GP out-of-hours consultations, emergency department attendances and NHS 111 cold/flu calls.'

Rob Lambkin-Williams, executive scientific advisor at the hVIVO Group, said: 'The recent report from PHE showed that cases of ILI were over 50% higher than the previous week.

'This is a major concern as Australia experienced its worst flu season last year since the 2009 pandemic, and what happens in Australia is often of the harbinger of what may happen in the Northern hemisphere.'

He added that, contrary to what 'many might believe', it is not too late to vaccinate as it can give some protection 'within seven days'.

PHE also said that in the week ending 28 December, there were 34 new respiratory outbreaks, including 26 from care homes, seven from hospitals and one in another setting.

There was also an uptick in the number of hospitalisations with confirmed influenza, at a rate of 1.55 per 100,000 compared to 1.49 per 100,000 in the previous week and above the baseline of 0.56 per 100,000 for the 2017/18 season.

BMA GP Committee clinical lead Dr Andrew Green said: 'These reports tie in with the experiences of many GPs who have noticed increased pressure on their appointments, often with patients who are quite poorly.

'It is important education regarding self-care continues, but we are also seeing elderly patients who have heard these messages and have perhaps delayed seeking help for longer than they should.'

It comes as a British Lung Foundation report last month warned that less than half of the patients eligible for free flu vaccinations were vaccinated ahead of last winter's flu season.


Readers' comments (6)

  • End of the line?

    Tamiflu availability???

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  • Ildiko Spelt

    GP's lost control over the flu vaccination due to the "next door" chemist involvement ...We never had a such a low rate of vaccinated people before... but again, the fight for the vaccine money !!!

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  • The ones I saw mainly wanted sick notes for a few extra days off between Xmas and New Year

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  • Vinci Ho

    This is on latest BMJ about antivirals against influenza:

    Japan’s government warns against abnormal behaviour in people taking antivirals for flu
    BMJ 2017; 359 doi: (Published 28 November 2017)
    Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j5529
    Nigel Hawkes
    Author affiliations
    Local authorities in Japan have been told to take precautions to avoid accidental injury among people with influenza this winter, after the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare reported 54 cases of abnormal behaviour last season among people taking antivirals.

    They included two young people who died after jumping from buildings while taking zanamivir (Relenza), the Japan Times reported.1 In most of the cases—38 of the 54—the drug involved was oseltamivir (Tamiflu).

    The suggested precautions included installing extra locks on windows and …

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  • Took Early Retirement

    As we know, people with Influenza are too ill to "go to the GP". These people mentioned have URTIs, colds, sinusitis.Fair enough, it's what GPs tend to do and sort out who needs antibiotics and who doesn't, but "flu" it ain't. (Usually)

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  • totally agree with the above comment. we are seeing a lot of this nasty prolonged cough which can start with vicious sore throat and its thought to be an adenovirus. Has anyone properly identified it yet? when I was stricken with it my cough lasted 2 months and I have never coughed otherwise in the last 50 years.

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