Flu And COVID-19 Surveillance Report Published - 19 October 2023
This weekly flu and COVID-19 report brings together the latest surveillance data along with the latest public health advice.
COVID-19 surveillance up until end of week 41
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Multiple indicators show that COVID-19 case rates have slightly decreased compared to the previous week.
A total of 10.9% of 4,751 respiratory specimens reported through the Respiratory DataMart System were identified as COVID-19. A decrease compared to 12.0% of 3,848 from the previous report.
Pillar 1 positivity for this week’s report is 16.7% with 623 cases, a decrease from 17.5% with 552 in the previous week.
The overall COVID-19 hospital admission rate is 5.25 per 100,000 population, a decrease from 6.13 per 100,000 in the previous week.
Intensive care unit (ICU) admission rates for this week’s report are 0.14 per 100,000 population and continue to remain low. This is a decrease from 0.20 per 100,000 from the previous week.
Hospital admission rates have decreased in all age groups, except the group of those aged 5 to 14 years, who have remained stable.
Those aged 85 years and over continue to have the highest hospital admission rates; these have decreased to 55.59 per 100,000 population from 62.72 per 100,000 in the previous week.
Admission rates among those aged 75 to 84 years have decreased to 26.14 per 100,000 population from 30.04 per 100,000 in the previous week.
Hospital admission rates for COVID-19 continue to be the highest in the South West, but decreasing to 7.85 per 100,000 population this week.
A total 46.8% (5,222,091 out of 11,164,326) of all people aged over 65 years old who are living and resident in England have been vaccinated with an autumn 2023 booster dose since 1 September 2023.
New analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) indicates that the autumn 2022 booster programme prevented an estimated 14,400 hospitalisations.
Flu surveillance up until end of week 41
Multiple indicators show that flu case rates remain low and stable.
Through Respiratory DataMart, influenza positivity increased slightly to 1.5% in week 41 compared to 1.4% in the previous week.
The overall flu hospital admission for this week was 0.07 per 100,000 population, a decrease from 0.13 per 100,000 from the previous week.
Flu ICU admission rates remain at baseline levels.
Those aged 0 to 4 continue to have the highest level of hospital admissions with a rate of 0.64 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:
57.0% in all aged 65 years and over
23.2% in all aged 2 years
21.4% in all aged 3 years
21.8% in those aged under 65 years in a clinical risk group
16.5% in all pregnant women
Dr Mary Ramsay, Director of Public Health Programmes at UKHSA, said:
RSV surveillance up until end of week 41
"This week’s surveillance report shows a small decrease in COVID-19 infection rates and low levels of flu activity.
"Now is a great time to get winter strong and protect yourself before the anticipated rise in cases through the colder months. We will continue to monitor rates closely and remind people that when you have respiratory symptoms you should avoid mixing with others, especially those who are particularly vulnerable.
"It is great to see even more people come forward for both their COVID-19 and flu jabs this week. You can now book a flu vaccination online, the same way you would with the COVID-19 vaccine. You don’t have to wait for an invitation from your GP or the NHS before booking an appointment.
"Young children continue to be the age group with the highest rates of hospitalisation with flu. Young children aged 2 to 3 years are eligible for a simple nasal spray flu vaccine, and you can help protect yourself and your child even before birth by getting vaccinated while you are pregnant. The flu vaccine is the best protection against serious illness and hospitalisation."
The overall positivity* for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) increased slightly to 4.3%, with the highest positivity in those aged under 5 years at 19.6%.
*among people with symptoms tested at sentinel ‘spotter’ laboratories, reported through the Respiratory Datamart surveillance system
Dr Conall Watson, Consultant Epidemiologist at UKHSA, said:
Norovirus surveillance up until end of week 40
"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."
Norovirus laboratory reports decreased in recent weeks and during the 2-week period of the 2023/2024 season (weeks 39 and 40) were 23% lower than the 5-season average of the same period.
Overall, the total number of reported enteric virus (including norovirus) outbreaks reported during weeks 39 and 40 remained lower than the 5-season average for the same 2-week period. The majority of outbreaks were in educational settings.
Amy Douglas, Norovirus Epidemiologist at UKHSA, said:
"While norovirus cases are still low, we expect levels to rise as we head into winter. Outbreaks in schools have already started to increase. 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."
The pneumococcal vaccine is also available for those aged 65 and older. The vaccine helps protect against a common bacterial infection that can cause serious illnesses like:
pneumonia (an infection in the lungs which often occurs after a bout of flu)
meningitis (an infection in the brain and spinal cord)
sepsis (a life-threatening reaction to an infection)
It can also help protect against other illnesses such as sinusitis and ear infections.
You can contact your GP surgery for further information, and to book the pneumococcal vaccine.