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National Flu And Covid-19 Surveillance Reports Published - Under 5s Risk Increasing

2nd December 2022

Photograph of National Flu And Covid-19 Surveillance Reports Published - Under 5s Risk Increasing

Weekly national influenza and coronavirus (COVID-19) report, COVID-19 activity, seasonal flu and other seasonal respiratory illnesses.

Flu surveillance up until end of week 47
Swab positivity for flu* has increased further and is now at 10.5%; it remains highest in 5 to 14-year-olds at 18.5%.

Hospital admission rates and intensive care admission rates have increased further in the last week, admissions are now at medium activity levels and intensive care activity has increased within the medium band**.

The highest rates of admission are being seen in children under the age of 5 (6.88 per 100,000) and adults aged 85 and over (6.94 per 100,000).

Flu vaccine uptake is comparable to the previous 2021 to 2022 season in a number of cohorts, with more than 75% of over 65-year-olds having received their flu vaccine, exceeding the World Health Organization target.

For pregnant women, vaccine uptake is 29.3%, just over 5 percentage points lower than this time last season, and around 3 percentage points lower than 2 seasons ago.

Vaccine uptake in 2 and 3-year-olds is below that seen in the previous 2 seasons. It is just over 9.5 percentage points lower than last season and a little over 14 percentage points lower than 2020 to 2021, but broadly comparable to the 2018 to 2019 pre-pandemic season.

*The percentage of people who test positive among those with symptoms tested at sentinel ‘spotter' laboratories, reported through the Respiratory Datamart surveillance system.

**Influenza activity bands are set using an international standard method.

Dr Conall Watson, Consultant Epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said, "Flu vaccine uptake among pregnant women and young children is low for this time of year. This is concerning given the expected reduced levels of natural immunity across the population following 2 winters with little flu.

Getting the vaccine when you are pregnant can protect you and your baby against potentially serious complications.

It can take a couple of weeks to build up full immunity after the vaccine so it is important to book yours as soon as possible to get protected in time for the festive season.

Parents of children in eligible school years should make sure their kids take up the offer of flu nasal spray vaccine at the school session or in community catch-up clinics.

COVID-19 surveillance up until end of week 47
Surveillance indicators suggest that, at a national level, COVID-19 activity has decreased in most indicators in week 47 of 2022.

The number of acute respiratory infection incidents (suspected outbreaks) in care homes due to COVID-19 increased in England in week 47 to 83 compared to 49 in the previous week.

The COVID-19 hospital admission rate for week 47 was 4.69 per 100,000 population, a small increase from 4.45 in the previous week.

Hospital admission rates for COVID-19 are highest in the East Midlands, with a rate of 6.07 per 100,000 population.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Director of Public Health Programmes at UKHSA, said. "As we head into the coldest part of the year, we would expect to see the prevalence of COVID-19 and other winter viruses begin to increase as people mix more indoors. This is what the data is beginning to show. COVID-19 hospitalisations are highest in the oldest age groups, so it is particularly important that everyone who is eligible comes forward to receive their booster jab.

While COVID-19 and flu can be mild infections for many, we must not forget that they can cause severe illness or even death for those most vulnerable in our communities.

If you are unwell this winter, please try to stay at home and avoid contact with vulnerable people - this will help stop infections spreading.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) surveillance up until end of week 47
RSV overall swab positivity* increased to 12.7% in week 47, with the highest positivity in under 5-year-olds remaining elevated at 34.4%.

Learn more about RSV in our blog.

*among people with symptoms tested at sentinel ‘spotter' laboratories, reported through the Respiratory Datamart surveillance system

Dr Conall Watson, Consultant Epidemiologist at UKHSA, said:

Over recent weeks RSV rates have been rising across all age groups, most notably in the under 5s. RSV is unfortunately common at this time of the year and can be severe for children under 2 - particularly for babies and those born prematurely. Everyone should try and avoid spreading respiratory viruses to young children - use tissues, wash hands and avoid visiting babies if you are unwell.

If you are worried your child has cold symptoms with unusual breathing or trouble feeding, please contact your GP or NHS 111. If your child seems seriously ill, trust your judgement and get emergency care.