Flu hospitalisations ‘rising fastest in children under 5’

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Data suggests the sixth wave of COVID-19 has peaked at lower levels than previous waves.

According to data from the ONS (Office for National Statistics) Covid cases numbers have flattened in five out of nine English regions.

Case numbers are also falling in Northern Ireland, and Scotland while children are also experiencing low prevalence of COVID-19.

However, while Covid cases have plateaued, there are still dangerous times afoot say scientists.

Speaking to the Guardian, the University of Edinburgh’s Professor Mark Woolhouse said: “We need to be vigilant and monitor the data with great care, all the time.”

Meanwhile Professor Andrew Lee added: “The problem is that we have now got a soup of around 300 COVID-19 variants in existence.

“At the same time, different populations have got varying levels of immunity to COVID-19. That makes it really difficult to predict how future waves are going to behave.”

Meanwhile, flu is continuing to cause concern among the UK’s health officials.

This has been reflected in a report by the UKHSA (United Kingdom Health Security Agency). In its report for week 41 of the year, it wrote “influenza positivity continued to increase to 4.1 percent. Positivity was highest in the 5 to 14-year-olds at 10.8 percent followed by the 15 to 44-year-olds at 8.1 percent. SARS-CoV-2 positivity increased slightly to 10.0 percent”.

Following these figures, Director of Public Health Programmes Dr Mary Ramsay said: “Our latest data shows early signs of the threat we expected to face from flu this season.

“We’re urging parents in particular not to be caught out as rates of hospitalisations and ICU admissions are currently rising fastest in children under five.”

Dr Ramsay added: “This will be a concern for many parents and carers of young children, and we urge them to take up the offer of vaccination for eligible children as soon as possible.”

Furthermore, cases of flu are beginning to rise earlier than expected as the UK makes its way through a mild autumn into the winter.

Despite this, Professor Francoise Balloux from University College London said: “The one piece of good news is that the flu vaccine that is now being given turns out to be really well matched to the strains that have begun to circulate in the population. That means it should provide good protection and hold down hospitalisations.”

Speaking about the situation compared to last year, Woolhouse said: “This time last year, when we had quite high levels of the Delta variant of COVID-19, expert after expert predicted really huge waves of the disease would sweep Britain in the autumn. And it never happened.”

Despite the concern about COVID-19, health experts and scientists are remaining optimistic about this winter. Professor Lee commented: “As long as Covid remains mild for most people, and doesn’t overwhelm health systems, governments will be able to ride the wave.

“But if we get a more pathogenic, severe variant then that will dictate a very different response. And that remains a risk, without doubt.”

However, this could all change if a new variant comes along.

Meanwhile, flu could also cause a problem. Before Covid, the NHS went through an annual flu epidemic.

This year, with low population immunity, the fear is flu will spread through the population and cause a larger wave than the year before.

Symptoms to look out for include:
• Sudden and high temperature
• Aching body
• Feeling tired and exhausted
• Dry cough
• Sore throat
• Headache
• Difficulty sleeping
• Loss of appetite
• Diarrhoea or tummy pain
• Feeling sick
• Being sick.

How to tell the difference between COVID-19 and the flu

As Covid has evolved over the past two years, the symptoms have changed to more closely resemble those of cold and flu.

On this, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said: “It’s not easy to tell the difference between COVID-19 and the flu.

“The flu has many symptoms in common with Covid, such as a headache, sore throat, fever, cough, tiredness, muscle aches, a runny nose and shortness of breath.

“However, it’s unusual for the flu to cause a loss or change to your sense of taste and smell, which can happen with COVID-19.”

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