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GP flu consultations continue to rise

GPs across the country are continuing to see an increase in consultations for influenza, especially among children and young people, figures from the Health Protection Agency show.

The latest data show the week before Christmas, weekly primary care consultation rates increased in England to 27.4 per 100,000

Flu consultation rates rose in other areas of the country too, with a rate of 18.9 per 100,000 in Wales, 19.7 per 100,000 in Scotland and 25.5 per 100,000 in Northern Ireland.

Flu-like illness rates were highest in the five to 14 age group, which were about twice those of overall levels. There were 45 acute respiratory disease outbreaks - 43 in schools and two in care homes - in the last week recorded.

The weekly proportion of NHS Direct calls for cold and flu has also reached the ‘influenza threshold’ of 1.6%.

GPs were given the green light to prescribe antivirals for influenza in those at risk of developing complications by the Department of Health.

Dr Richard Pebody, head of seasonal flu surveillance at the HPA said the latest flu vaccination figures were ‘encouraging’.

He said: ‘The latest vaccine uptake figures for one of the ‘at risk’ groups – the over 65 age group – are encouraging, with more than 70% taking up the offer of the flu vaccine.

‘Among those in an ‘at risk’ group under 65 years of age, uptake is just under 50% and around 40% of pregnant women and healthcare workers have accepted the offer of vaccination this season.’