Flu activity in the north very low this winter
Flu rates in the north are very low compared to previous years, according to the latest surveillance bulletin published by the Public Health Agency (PHA).
According to the PHA bulletin for the Christmas period: "GP flu/FLI consultation rates were 1.2 and 1.1 per 100,000 population in weeks 51 and 52 respectively, which is lower than the same time in 2019- 20 (10.4 per 100,000 in week 52). Activity remains below the baseline threshold for Northern Ireland (<11.3 per 100,000).
"Flu/ FLI consultation rates were highest in 45-64 year olds in week 51 and in 65+ year olds in week 52 (1.8 and 1.4 per 100,000, respectively). Rates are lower in all age groups compared to the same time in 2019-20 (Week 52)."
Out-of-Hours (OOH) flu consultation rates are also far lower than they were prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
"Flu/FLI consultation rates in Primary Care Out-of-Hours (OOH) Centres were 2.6 per 100,000 population in week 51 and 5.8 per 100,000 in week 52. This is lower than the same time in 2019-20 (14.7 per 100,000 in week 52).
"In weeks 51 and 52 the percentage of calls to an OOH Centre due to flu/FLI was 0.5% and 0.7%, respectively. This is lower than when compared to the same period in 2019-20 (1.9% in week 52).
"Rates were highest in those aged 0-4 years in weeks 51 and 52 (5.4 and 7.2 per 100,000 population, respectively). In comparison to week 52, 2019- 20, consultation rates were lower in all age groups," the bulletin states.
And while a number of strains of flu - including H1N1 (related to the Spanish flu and 2009 swine flu) and H3 (related to the Hong Kong flu of 1968) - are in circulation their prevalence is much, much lower than what would be expected at this time of year.
"In weeks 51 and 52, 23 samples were positive for flu (six Flu A(H3), zero Flu A(H1N1), 15 Flu A (untyped), and 2 Flu B) from 9,483 submitted for testing in laboratories across Northern Ireland. Positivity for weeks 51 and 52 combined (0.2%) is lower when compared to this time in 2019-20 (30.6%). The majority (75.5%) of total influenza positive samples since week 40 occurred in children aged 0-14 years," the bulletin says.