THIS map reveals the UK flu hotspots as health bosses warned the virus has hit early – putting thousands of kids at risk.
It relies on patients self-reporting so the true figure in each region is likely to be far higher.
The latest NHS data shows hospital admissions for flu have tripled in a fortnight and have reached at “moderate intensity” – with 4.3 admissions per 100,000.
That number is up from a rate of 1.4 two weeks earlier.
It comes as officials have admitted flu jab delays have left thousands of young kids at risk.
Production problems resulted in widespread shortages of the nasal-spray vaccine, which is given to toddlers and schoolchildren.
Get kids vaccinated now
Public Health England says stocks are now available and are urging parents to get their kids inoculated.
But figures show uptake is down 32 per cent compared to last year, with only a quarter of young children covered.
Health bosses also warned that flu has arrived early, with cases already beginning to spike.
Dr Jamie Lopez Bernal, Head of Flu at PHE, said: “Flu season has now started and so it’s really important that people get their flu vaccine as soon as possible to ensure they are protected against this potentially very serious illness.
Flu season has now started and so it’s really important that people get their flu vaccine as soon as possible to ensure they are protected against this potentially very serious illness
Dr Jamie Lopez Bernal
“Vaccination uptake in toddlers is lower than we would hope for at this point in the year due to previous delays in delivery of the vaccine, which are now resolved.
“If you have children aged two to three go to your GP to get them vaccinated now.”
Parents of children in high-risk groups, such as those with asthma or diabetes, are still being advised to contact their GP to be seen sooner.
Children who are aged two and three are eligible for the flu vaccine nasal spray via their GP surgery.
People aged 65 and over, children and adults with underlying medical conditions and pregnant women are urged to get their free vaccine in the next few weeks before the flu season peaks, typically in January.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: “The flu vaccine is the best defence we have against what can be a serious and fatal illness, and flu season is just around the corner.
“If you are in an eligible group, visit your GP or pharmacist as soon possible to ensure you are protected.”
The flu vaccine is the best defence we have against what can be a serious and fatal illness
Dr Mary Ramsay
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England national medical director, said: “Flu can be extremely serious and even kill in some cases, and getting vaccinated is the best protection against it.
“NHS services across England continue to work hard to prepare for the winter season, including staff getting their free flu jab, and now we’re appealing to the public to ‘Help Us, Help You’ by ensuring that they and their eligible children or relatives get vaccinated, now.”
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Influenza can be a very unpleasant illness, and while it is not generally a serious illness for most people, for those in at-risk groups, such as young children, elderly people, those with long-term conditions and pregnant women, flu has the potential to trigger life-threatening complications.
“The best defence against the flu is to be vaccinated and we strongly urge all patients in at-risk groups to get vaccinated and for parents to ensure their young children receive their vaccine as soon as possible.”
What are the symptoms of flu?
Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include:
- a sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or above
- an aching body
- feeling tired or exhausted
- a dry cough
- a sore throat
- a headache
- difficulty sleeping
- loss of appetite
- diarrhoea or tummy pain
- nausea and being sick
The symptoms are similar for children, but they can also get pain in their ear and appear less active.
The flu vaccine reduces the risk of catching flu, as well as spreading it to others.
It’s more effective to get the vaccine before the start of the flu season (December to March).
Source: NHS UK
At-risk groups eligible for the flu vaccine include people with a chronic neurological disease; respiratory, heart, kidney or liver disease; diabetes and the over-65s.
Pregnant women have a much higher risk of serious illness if they get the flu, with possible complications including pneumonia, septic shock and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
Clare Livingstone, professional policy adviser at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: “The RCM recommends that pregnant women have the flu vaccination.
“The flu is a highly infectious illness, which can be very serious during pregnancy for both mums-to-be and their babies.
“That is why we are encouraging all pregnant women to have the vaccine as soon as possible so they are protected from flu viruses circulating this winter.
“It’s important that if pregnant women have any questions or concerns about the flu vaccination or any vaccination in pregnancy that they speak to their midwife, GP or practice nurse who can provide them with more information and advice.”