Flu activity rises again and remains at epidemic level

Flu activity has risen again and is above the threshold for an epidemic but one of low intensity so far this season, according to the latest bulletin from the Public Health Agency (PHA).

Flu activity has risen again
Flu activity has risen again

The rate of GP consultations for flu in week 1 (January 2 to January 8) was 17.7 per 100,000 population. This is higher than week 52 (14.0 per 100,000) and higher than the same period in 2021-22 (1.5 per 100,000).

The PHA bulletin stated: “Activity remains at low activity levels (between 11.3 and 21.8 per 100,000) in week 1 after increasing above the baseline threshold (11.3 per 100,000) in week 51.

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“Due to changes in social contact over the holiday period and the bank holiday over New Year, findings should be interpreted with caution.”

Last week the Derry Journal reported how flu activity had risen over Christmas and breached the threshold for an epidemic for the first this winter.

This week the PHA has confirmed an epidemic level of flu continues.

Flu/flu like illness (FLI) consultation rates were highest in those aged 45-64 year old in week 1 at 22.3 per 100,000 population. Rates are higher in all age groups when compared to the same period in 2021-22,” its weekly bulletin shows.

However, the rate of flu consultations at Primary Care Out-of-Hours (OOH) Centres actually fell last week.

"The Flu/FLI consultation rate in Primary Care Out-of-Hours (OOH) Centres was 8.0 per 100,000 population in week 1. This is lower than

week 52 (16.3 per 100,000) and higher than the same period in 2021-22 (4.8 per 100,000).

"In week 1 the percentage of calls to an OOH Centre due to flu/FLI was 1.44%. This is lower than the previous week (1.93% in week 52),” the bulletin states.

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It adds: "Rates were highest in those aged 15-44 years in week 1 (13.8 per 100,000 population). Rates were higher in the 15-44 and 45-64 year old age categories but lower in the 0-4, 5-14 and 65+ age groups, when compared with the same period in 2021-22.”

The PHA also confirmed there were four outbreaks during the week bringing to 26 the number of flu outbreaks this season. There has also been one respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) outbreak reported this season.

"There were four respiratory outbreaks reported to the PHA Health Protection acute response duty room during week 01. These were all

outbreaks of Flu A (untyped), two were reported in a hospital setting and two in a care home setting.

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"To date, in 2022-23, there have been a total of 26 confirmed influenza outbreaks reported (14 in a care home setting, one in a supported

living facility and 11 in a hospital) and one RSV outbreak (care home setting),” the bulletin shows.

There was also a year-on-year increase in respiratory deaths over the week.

“In week 1, 155 respiratory associated deaths out of 474 all-cause deaths were reported (33%). This is higher than the same period in 2021/22 (121 respiratory deaths out of 416 all-cause deaths, 29%),” the report demonstrates.