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Flu and COVID-19 surveillance report published

Weekly national influenza and COVID-19 report, COVID-19 activity, seasonal flu and other seasonal respiratory illnesses.

The latest national flu and COVID-19 surveillance report, which includes respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) data, and national norovirus and rotavirus surveillance report, have been published along with the latest public health advice.

RSV surveillance up until end of week 42

The overall positivity* for RSV increased to 5.8%, with the highest positivity in those aged under 5 years at 25.0%. Emergency departments attendances for acute bronchiolitis continued to increase nationally, as well as hospital admission rates.

*among people with symptoms tested at sentinel ‘spotter’ laboratories, reported through the Respiratory Datamart surveillance system

Dr Conall Watson, Consultant Epidemiologist at UKHSA, said:

UKHSA surveillance this week is showing further increases in RSV and RSV bronchiolitis in young children, leading to an increase in hospital admissions. While usually mild, RSV infection can cause breathing difficulties in babies and the elderly. Initial symptoms in infants are similar to a cold but can go on to include breathing more quickly or noisily and having difficulties feeding.

If your baby has a cold that is getting worse, or it is causing unusual breathing or problems feeding, call NHS 111 or contact your GP practice. As a parent, you should trust your own judgement and call 999 or go to A&E if your child seems seriously unwell.

You can protect yourself and others by washing your hands regularly, using a tissue to catch coughs or sneezes and washing your hands afterwards, and staying away from others if you feel unwell. RSV is another reason why babies need protection from tobacco smoke as this is linked with more severe RSV infections.

COVID-19 surveillance up until end of week 42

Multiple indicators show that COVID-19 case rates have decreased compared to the previous week.

A total of 10.1% of 5,206 respiratory specimens reported through the Respiratory DataMart System were identified as COVID-19. A decrease compared to 10.9% of 4,751 from the previous week.

Pillar 1 positivity for this week’s report is 13.5% positivity, resulting in 528 cases, a decrease from 16.7% positivity, resulting in 623 cases in the previous week.

The overall COVID-19 hospital admission rate is 4.62 per 100,000 population, a decrease from 5.25 per 100,000 in the previous week.

Intensive care unit (ICU) admission rates for this week’s report remained stable, staying at 0.16 per 100,000 population and continue to remain low.

Hospital admission rates have decreased in all age groups, except the group of those aged 45 to 54 years, who have remained stable.

Those aged 85 years and over continue to have the highest hospital admission rates; these have decreased to 48.25 per 100,000 population from 55.59 per 100,000 in the previous week.

Admission rates among those aged 75 to 84 years have decreased to 23.77 per 100,000 population from 26.14 per 100,000 in the previous week.

Hospital admission rates for COVID-19 are highest in the West Midlands at 7.00 per 100,000 population this week.

A total of 55.1% (6,146,673 out of 11,164,326) of all people aged over 65 years who are living and resident in England have been vaccinated with an autumn 2023 COVID-19 booster dose since 1 September 2023.

Flu surveillance up until end of week 42

Multiple indicators show that flu case rates this week remained stable.

Through Respiratory DataMart, influenza positivity remained stable, staying at 1.2% this week.

The overall flu hospital admission for this week was 0.11 per 100,000 population, a slight decrease from 0.17 per 100,000 last week.

Flu ICU admission rates remain at baseline levels.

Those aged 85 years and over have the highest level of hospital admissions with a rate of 0.48 per 100,000 population.

The provisional proportion of people in England who have received the 2023 to 2024 influenza vaccine in targeted groups is as follows:

  • 65.2% in all aged 65 years and over
  • 26.9% in all aged 2 years
  • 25.8% in all aged 3 years
  • 26.8% in those aged under 65 years in a clinical risk group
  • 20.2% in all pregnant women

Dr Mary Ramsay, Director of Public Health Programmes at UKHSA, said: 

This week’s surveillance report shows a continued decrease in COVID-19 infection rates and flu activity remains stable. We continue to monitor rates closely and remind people that when you have respiratory symptoms, you should avoid mixing with others as this helps to combat the spread of viruses like COVID-19 and flu.

This is the best time to get vaccinated before we see the peak flu season and the anticipated rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the colder months. Those eligible can book their flu and COVID-19 vaccination online.

If you are aged 65 years or over, have certain health conditions or a learning disability, are pregnant or if you care, work, or live with vulnerable people you may be eligible for both flu and COVID-19 vaccines. A quick and painless nasal flu vaccine is available children aged 2 to 3 years from their GP, while primary and secondary school aged children can receive theirs at school with a signed consent form.

Norovirus surveillance up until end of week 41

Norovirus laboratory reports decreased in recent weeks and during the 2-week period of the 2023 to 2024 season (weeks 40 and 41) were 23% lower than the 5-season average of the same period.

Overall, the total number of reported enteric virus (all suspected or confirmed as norovirus) outbreaks reported during weeks 40 and 41 remained lower than the 5-season average for the same 2-week period. The majority of outbreaks were in care home settings.

Amy Douglas, Norovirus Epidemiologist at UKHSA, said:

While norovirus cases are still low, we expect levels to rise as we head into winter. It’s really important we take steps to try and stop the spread. If you or a family member have been sick with norovirus, you should avoid visiting hospitals and care homes, and not return to work or school, until 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped.

Hand gels do not kill norovirus, so handwashing with soap and warm water is best. Using bleach-based products to clean surfaces will also help stop the virus from spreading.

Make sure to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration which can result in hospitalisation, particularly for the most vulnerable.

Pneumococcal vaccine

The pneumococcal vaccine is also available for those aged 65 years and older. The vaccine helps protect against a common bacterial infection that can cause serious illnesses like:

  • pneumonia (an infection in the lungs which often occurs after a bout of flu)
  • meningitis (an infection in the brain and spinal cord)
  • sepsis (a life-threatening reaction to an infection)

 It can also help protect against other illnesses such as sinusitis and ear infections.

You can contact your GP surgery for further information, and to book the pneumococcal vaccine.

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