Government statistics show 1,111 people were struck down with flu as temperatures dropped last week – a 156 per cent jump on the previous seven days.
The dreaded Aussie flu outbreak expected to be the worst in 50 years has taken hold of Britain as official figures reveal cases have more than doubled in one week.
The sharp rise in cases, released by Public Health England, has been triggered by a surge in two aggressive subtypes attacking the population simultaneously.
One includes the so-called ‘Aussie flu’, a strain of influenza A which wreaked havoc on hospitals in Australia during the country’s winter.
The H3N2 subtype triggered two and a half times the normal number of cases in Australia. Britain’s flu season tends to mirror what has happened there.
Experts fear the virulent flu strain, which has now reached the UK, could prove as deadly to humanity as the Hong Kong flu in 1968, which killed one million people.
Government statistics show 1,111 people were struck down with flu last week – a 156 per cent jump on the previous seven days
Usually, just one subtype, either influenza A or B, is responsible for the majority of cases. It spreads much easier in the cold weather.
But last week 522 cases of influenza A and 546 of influenza B were recorded across England and Wales. Some 43 cases are yet to be identified.
Some 23 people have died from the flu outbreak so far this winter, with nearly a third of fatalities having occurred last week.
However, this winter’s outbreak shows no signs of slowing down, as flu cases are expected to rocket even further in the coming weeks.
HOW MUCH PRESSURE IS THE NHS UNDER?
Earlier this month, NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts, said hospitals will be ‘sorely tested’ this winter.
Its comments were provoked by chief executives of two hospitals who admitted their bed occupancy rates are 98 per cent and 99 per cent respectively.
And concerned doctors warned patients will have to ‘sleep, take paracetamol and pray’ ahead of the impending winter crisis.
The NHS is expected to face unprecedented pressure in the coming months, as campaigners fear it will be disastrous amid soaring waiting lists in A&E.
The worries follow last year’s winter crisis, which saw health secretary Jeremy Hunt beg people to stay away from turmoil-hit hospitals.
The Red Cross branded the situation a ‘humanitarian crisis’ – a term used to describe the devastating civil war in Syria and Yemen.