FLU patients in hospital have hit the highest levels in a decade after a dramatic Christmas surge, figures show.
Admissions stood at 8.3 per 100,000 people in the week to January 1, down from 14.8 the previous week, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
Experts have urged Brits to come forward for their flu vaccines if eligibleCredit: Getty
This was the highest level in at least a decade – however experts said the figures should be treated with caution.
There can often be a slight reduction in recorded levels of hospital activity over the festive period, which this winter included the weekend of December 24/25 followed by bank holidays on both December 26 and 27.
Despite the drop, the rate is still running above any point in the previous four winters.
The data from the UKHSA comes as it was revealed that the UK has suffered its deadliest week in two years as the NHS battles a ‘twindemic’ of Covid and flu.
There’s also the worry of the new ‘Kraken’ variant, which the WHO has raised concerns over.
Hospitals are also running out of oxygen as patients are treated in corridors.
Flu admissions continue to be highest among the oldest age groups, at 61.8 per 100,000 for people aged 85 and over and 31.8 for 75- to 84-year-olds.
Covid-19 admissions also showed a decrease, down from 11.8 per 100,000 to 10.7.
Rates for coronavirus admissions were again highest among the elderly, at 130.7 for over-85s and 51.8 for those aged 75-84.
Dame Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: “In the week leading up to Christmas, we saw a dramatic increase in the number of people admitted to hospital with flu, with the highest levels of hospital admissions we’ve seen in at least a decade.
“Admissions were particularly high in the under 5s and those 65 and over.
“I urge all those eligible to come forward for their free flu vaccination, which is the best way to protect yourself from serious illness.
“Uptake of the flu vaccine is particularly low in children aged 2 and 3 so if your child is eligible please urgently take up the offer.”
“Try to stay home when unwell and if you do have to go out, wearing a face covering can help prevent germs spreading to other people. Don’t visit vulnerable people if you’re unwell,” she added.
She also urged Brits to come forward for their Covid boosters and asked people to practice good hygiene in order to prevent illness.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for Covid last night warned that medics are concerned about the new ‘Kraken’ variant.
“We are concerned about its growth advantage in particular in some countries in Europe and in the US… particularly the Northeast part of the United States, where XBB.1.5 has rapidly replaced other circulating variants.
“Our concern is how transmissible it is… and the more this virus circulates, the more opportunities it will have to change,” she told a press conference.
In the UK, cases are low and the Omicron spin-off makes up less than five per cent of positive tests being recorded.
Despite a rise before Christmas, the data shows that cases of the flu are now started to fall across all age groups. The chart above refers to cases up to the week ending January 1Credit: UKHSA