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England and Wales sees a surge in influenza cases over Christmas and New Year

Editorial Staff

A rapid increase in reports of influenza (which includes only those who seek medical assistance via a National Health Service reporting line) shows that the end of 2018 was a pretty miserable time for many people. But the graphs and the absolute figures tell a different tale and demonstrate that the NHS is achieving success in reducing the incidence of this condition.

The weekly progression of reported cases of all types of Influenza show lines that are broadly flat in the first and second weeks of the month with a more than 100% rise in week three and a further more or less one third rise in week four. If that were to be shown on a graph, there would be a startling upswing. But, that's not the whole picture.

Taking the actual numbers (226, 298, 653, 870) the number of reported cases, relative to the population of more than 80 million, is actually tiny.

The NHS offers free vaccines to vulnerable groups and it is difficult to argue against the success of that.

Other respiratory conditions have done well but not always as well. There was a spike in babies under one year contracting respiratory syncytial virus in weeks 29-52, a spike consistent with those over 65. A similar pattern was identified for Rhinovirus (rhino being to do with the nose).

What is perhaps more surprising is that the once much-feared Legionnaires' disease that rarely gets a mention these days has not gone away: in the first 11 months of 2018 there were 730 reported cases. Some months ago, there were reports that cases had been identified where the source was windscreen washer bottles in cars where the bottles had been filled with plain water only. However, in the data, it is shown that of the 469 confirmed cases, 234 were "community" originated and travel abroad accounted for 164.

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