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Flu season ‘may have passed peak’, DH says

By Lilian Anekwe

The peak of the flu season ‘may already have passed', the Department of Health said today, after the latest figures showed the number of GP consultations for influenza-like illness fell by 39% in the last week.

Data compiled by the RCGP showed that in the week ending 16 January, the number of consultation for influenza-like illness fell by fell to 66.5 per 100,000, down from 108.4 the previous week.

Rates in Scotland were 42.9 per 100,000, while consultations stood at 51.5 per 100,000 in Wales and 194.0 per 100,000 in Northern Ireland.

Figures from the Health Protection Agency show a further 106 deaths have been reported in England in the last week, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths from flu to 165. 254 deaths from flu have been confirmed across the UK this winter.

Dr David Salisbury, the DH director of immunisation, said: ‘Last week we were very cautious about being able to say what the direction of travel would be, although there were indicators that suggested we may already have been at or past the peak.

‘The rate of GP consultations has come down further. So the direction of travel is pretty clear. It is pointing pretty clearly to the last few weeks being the peak of activity and what we are seeing now is the other side of the slope.'

But he added: ‘If there are still people who are not immunised and in the at-risk groups it is not too late because the virus will continue to circulate until it is down to very low levels.'

Vaccine uptake now stands at 71.7% in people in England aged over 65, and 48.0% in those in a risk group aged under 65. Vaccine uptake among frontline healthcare workers was 26.1% at the end of December – higher than the previous two years – and the overall vaccination rate for pregnant women stands at 35%.

'It is not too late to be vaccinated', the DH say