SDLP MLA Mark H. Durkan has warned of a 'flu epidemic with the latest data showing the number of reports of the virus in doctors' surgeries and out-of-hours is much higher than last year.
He said: “The latest influenza surveillance statistics are shocking to say the least but not surprising.
“The North has experienced the highest rates of flu-like symptoms, in particular symptoms in 5-14 year olds are at 41.1 per 100,000- significantly higher than this time last year.
“The rise, is no doubt owed to vaccination shortages and compounded by the fact that ‘flu season’ has started earlier this year."
According to the latest bulletin from the Public Health Agency (PHA) for week 49 (December 2 to December 8) flu activity was up across all age groups compared with last year.
This was the case for GP consultation rates for ‘flu/flu-like-illness’ across the North.
"The GP flu/FLI consultation rate during week 49, 2019 was 29.2 per 100,000 population, a slight increase from week 48, 2019 (28.2 per 100,000).
"This is higher than the same time last year (6.0 per 100,000). Activity remains in the moderate threshold for Northern Ireland (23.9 to <73.9 per 100,000) (Figure 1).
"Flu/FLI consultation rate was highest in those aged 5-14 years in week 49 (41.1 per 100,000 population).
"Consultation rates increased in all age groups, with the exception of those aged 0-4 and 5-14 years, which decreased from week 48. Rates are higher in all age groups compared to the same period last year (week 49, 2018-19)," said the PHA.
It was also the case for out-of-hours (OOH) consultation rates for ‘flu/FLI’.
"The flu/FLI consultation rate in Primary Care Out-of-Hours (OOH) Centres during week 49 was 19.3 per 100,000 population, an increase from week 48, 2019 (13.4 per 100,000).
"This is higher than the same time last year (5.6 per 100,000). In week 49 the percentage of calls to an OOH Centre due to flu/FLI was 3.1%. This is an increase from week 48 (2.1%) and the same period last year (1%).
"Rates were highest in those aged 0-4 years in week 49 (48.1 per 100,000 population). Rates are higher in all age groups compared to the same period," the PHA said.