Lancashire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
5:27 PM 13th October 2023

Flu And COVID-19 Surveillance Report Published - 13 October 2023

‘Come forward now for vaccination’ urges UKHSA

This fortnightly flu and COVID-19 report brings together the latest surveillance data along with the latest public health advice.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay
With early signs of COVID-19 rates increasing and new data showing the 2022 autumn booster prevented over 14,000 hospitalisations, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is urging those eligible to come forward now for vaccination.

COVID-19 surveillance up until end of week 40

Multiple indicators show that COVID-19 case rates have slightly increased compared to our previous report.

A total of 12.0% of 3,848 respiratory specimens reported through the Respiratory DataMart System were identified as COVID-19. An increase compared to 10.4% of 4,898 from the previous report.

Pillar 1 positivity for this week’s report is 17.5%, an increase from 14.4% in our previous report.

The overall COVID-19 hospital admission rate was 6.13 per 100,000 population, an increase from 4.36 per 100,000 from the previous report.

Intensive care unit (ICU) admission rates for this week’s report were 0.20 per 100,000 population, an increase from 0.11 per 100,000 in the previous report, but these levels remain low.

Hospital admission rates have increased in all age groups, except 5- to 14-year-olds, which has decreased.

Those aged 85 years and over continue to have the highest hospital admission rates; these have increased to 62.72 per 100,000 population from 44.86 per 100,000 in the previous report.

Admission rates among those aged 75 to 84 years have increased to 30.04 per 100,000 population from 20.20 per 100,000 in the previous report.

Hospital admission rates for COVID-19 are highest in the South West, with a rate of 9.57 per 100,000 population.

A total 35.3% (3,942,129 out of 11,164,326) of all people aged over 65 years old who are living and resident in England had been vaccinated with an autumn 2023 booster dose since 1 September 2023.

New analysis by UKHSA indicates that the autumn 2022 booster programme prevented an estimated 14,400 hospitalisations.

Flu surveillance up until end of week 40

Some indicators show a slight increase in flu case rates, while others indicate rates have remained stable.

Through Respiratory DataMart, influenza positivity increased slightly to 1.4% in week 40 compared to 0.8% in the previous week.

The overall flu hospital admission rate was 0.13 per 100,000 population, remaining stable from 0.11 per 100,000 from the previous week.

Flu ICU admission rates remain at baseline levels.

Those aged 0 to 4 have the highest level of hospital admissions with a rate of 0.67 per 100,000 population.

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

45.3% in all 65-year-olds and over
17.9% in all 2-year-olds
16.4% in all 3-year-olds
16.1% in under 65 years in a clinical risk group
12.5% in all pregnant women

Dr Mary Ramsay, Director of Public Health Programmes at UKHSA, said:
"This week’s surveillance indicates a slight increase in COVID-19 infection rates. As we enter the colder months and people begin to mix more indoors, we can expect to see further increases in COVID-19 alongside the usual increases we see in other winter respiratory viruses like flu. We are monitoring rates closely and reminding people that when you have respiratory symptoms you should avoid mixing with others, especially those more vulnerable.

"New UKHSA surveillance published today shows the autumn 2022 COVID-19 booster prevented around 14,400 people having to be hospitalised. This shows clearly the overwhelming benefits for those most vulnerable in getting their COVID-19 jab as soon as possible this autumn.

"It’s reassuring to see that 35.3% of those aged 65 and older have already taken up the offer of a COVID-19 jab.

"And our flu campaign this autumn has got off to a great start with vaccination rates across all at-risk groups up on last year.

"Heading into winter the flu vaccine offers the best protection against what can be a very severe illness for the more vulnerable, which includes pregnant women as well as 2 and 3 year olds who are all eligible for a free NHS vaccine. Tragically every year we see far too many unvaccinated young children severely ill with flu being hospitalised.

"We strongly urge parents and all those eligible, for either COVID-19 and flu vaccines or both, to book today with the NHS or via their GP surgery as soon as possible."

RSV surveillance up until end of week 40

The overall positivity for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) increased slightly to 3.3%, with the highest positivity in those aged under 5 years old at 14.9%. Emergency department attendances for acute bronchiolitis increased nationally.

Dr Conall Watson, Consultant Epidemiologist at UKHSA, said:
"As expected at this time of year, we are starting to see a rise in RSV infections in young children. While usually mild, the infection can cause breathing difficulties for 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 eating.

"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 such as difficulty breathing, having blue or grey lips, or if they are floppy and will not wake up or stay awake.

"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. It is also important to not smoke around babies."