Flu activity falls below baseline epidemic level

The level of flu activity has fallen below the baseline epidemic level again, according to the latest bulletin from the Public Health Agency (PHA).

The rate of GP consultations for flu in week 2 (January 9 to January 15) was 10.3 per 100,000population.

This is lower than week 1 (17.7 per 100,000) and higher than the same period in 2021/22 (1.3 per 100,000).

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The PHA stated: “Activity has returned to baseline activity levels (≤11.3 per 100,000) in week 2, after increasing above the baseline threshold between weeks 51-1.”

Flu activity has fallen

The flu activity rate is calculated using the Moving Epidemic Method (MEM), which is based on the last ten flu seasons.

As mentioned above, the epidemic baseline is set at 11.3 consultations per 100,000, after which the following increments are followed: low activity (11.3 to 21.8 consultations per 100,000); moderate activity (21.8 to 57); high activity (57 to 87.1); and very high activity (over 87.1 consultations).

The PHA have reported that in week 2 flu/FLI (flu-like illness) consultation rates were highest in the 45-64 year old age group in week 2 at 12.9 per 100,000 population.

Rates are higher in all age groups when compared to the same period in 2021/22.

The latest bulletin shows that there has also been a reduction in the Flu/FLI consultation rate in Primary Care Out-of-Hours (OOH) Centres.

In week 2 the rate was 4.9 per 100,000 population.

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Flu activity rises again and remains at epidemic level

"This is lower than week 1 (8.0 per 100,000) and higher than the same period in 2021/22 (2.9 per 100,000).

"In week 2 the percentage of calls to an OOH Centre due to flu/FLI was 0.9%. This is lower than the previous week (1.44% in week 1) and

also lower when compared to the same period in 2021-22 (0.58% in week 2),” the report states.

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The PHA bulletin shows adults accounted for the highest rates.

"Rates were highest in those aged 15-44 years in week 2 (6.7 per 100,000 population). Rates were higher in the 15-44, 45-64 and 65+ age categories but lower in the 0-4 and 5-14 age groups, when compared with the same period in 2021/22,” it stated.

Three more respiratory outbreaks were reported over the week bringing to 29 the number of outbreaks this winter so far.

“There were three respiratory outbreaks reported to the PHA Health Protection acute response duty room during week 2. These were all outbreaks of Flu A (untyped), two were reported in a hospital setting (one of which is also in a COVID-19 outbreak) and one in a care home setting.

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"This care home is also reporting an outbreak of COVID-19. To date, in 2022-23, there have been a total of 29 confirmed influenza outbreaks reported (15 in a care home setting, one in a supported living facility and 13 in a hospital) and one respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) outbreak (care home setting),” the bulletin states.

The PHA analysis confirms there were more respiratory related deaths over week 2 than during the same week last year.

“In week 2, 171 respiratory associated deaths out of 515 all-cause deaths were reported (33%). This is higher than the same period in 2021/22 (99 respiratory deaths out of 445 all-cause deaths, 22%),” according to the bulletin.

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The deaths included those where bronchiolitis, bronchitis, influenza or pneumonia were mentioned on the death certificate.