Flu And COVID-19 Surveillance Report Published - 10 November 2023
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 44
Image by Tom from Pixabay
The overall positivity (among people with symptoms tested at sentinel ‘spotter’ laboratories) for RSV increased to 10.7%, with the highest positivity in those aged under 5 years at 39.4%.
Emergency departments attendances for acute bronchiolitis continued to increase nationally, as well as hospital admission rates.
Dr Conall Watson, Consultant Epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said:
Flu surveillance up until end of week 44
"UKHSA surveillance shows that – as is expected as we head into winter – many young children are now needing NHS assessment and care for conditions like bronchiolitis caused by RSV. RSV infections are usually mild but 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."
Multiple indicators show that flu remained stable across most indicators.
A total 1.4% of 4,424 respiratory specimens reported through the Respiratory DataMart System were identified as flu. This remains stable when compared to the previous week where 1.3% of 5,230 specimens were found to be flu.
The overall flu hospital admission for this week has risen to 0.39 per 100,000 population, compared to 0.22 per 100,000 last week.
Flu intensive care unit (ICU) admission rates remain at baseline levels.
Those aged 0 to 4 years have the highest level of hospital admissions with a rate of 1.28 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:
COVID-19 surveillance up until end of week 44
72.5% in all aged 65 years and over
33.2% in all aged 3 years
35.1% in all aged 2 years
33.4% in those aged under 65 years in a clinical risk group
25.6% in all pregnant women
Multiple indicators show that COVID-19 case rates have continued to decrease in almost all indicators.
A total 7.6% of 4,362 respiratory specimens reported through the Respiratory DataMart System were identified as COVID-19. This is a decrease compared to the previous week where 8.7% of 5,350 specimens were found to be COVID-19.
Pillar 1 positivity for this week’s report is 11.0% positivity, resulting in 328 cases, a decrease from 12.5% positivity, resulting in 403 cases in the previous week.
The overall COVID-19 hospital admission rate is 3.45 per 100,000 population, a decrease from 4.04 per 100,000 in the previous week.
"Getting vaccinated before we reach peak flu season offers the best protection.
ICU admission rates for this week’s report remained low and stable, at 0.03 per 100,000 population.
Hospital admission rates have decreased further in most age groups, except those ages 5 to 44 where they have continued to remain low and stable.
Those aged 85 years and over continue to have the highest hospital admission rates; these have continued to decrease this week to 39.20 per 100,000 population from 47.52 per 100,000 in the previous week.
Admission rates among those aged 75 to 84 years have also continued to decrease, this week the data is 15.37 per 100,000 population compared to 17.84 per 100,000 in the previous week.
Hospital admission rates for COVID-19 are highest in the North West at 4.16 per 100,000 population this week.
A total 63.2% (7,050,519 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.
Dr Mary Ramsay, Director of Public Health Programmes at UKHSA, said:
Norovirus surveillance up until end of week 43
"Our weekly surveillance shows flu levels remain stable, but in the coming weeks as we approach winter, we expect this to change and will continue to monitor these rates closely. This week once again we see a decrease in COVID-19 infection rates.
"We remind people that if you show signs of respiratory symptoms, you should avoid mixing with others where possible to stop the spread of viruses like flu and COVID-19.
"Getting vaccinated before we reach peak flu season offers the best protection. We are beginning to see hospitalisations for flu among children under 5, and some children can become severely ill from flu. Most children aged 2 and 3 can get a nasal spray flu vaccine. You can book your flu and COVID-19 vaccination, and check your eligibility online."
Norovirus laboratory reports have remained low in recent weeks. During the 2-week period of the 2023 to 2024 season (weeks 42 and 43), they were 12% 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 42 and 43 remained lower than the 5-season average for the same 2-week period. The majority of outbreaks (53%) 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."