A flu epidemic will hit England within a fortnight, if current trends continue, according to latest figures showing more than eight million people now suffering symptoms.
The new data shows a "significant excess" of deaths among over 65s in England, and among those in all age groups in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Across England, flu levels are currently approaching high levels, the statistics from Public Health England show, with a 2.5 fold rise in cases in the last two weeks.
If current trends continue, it means England will reach epidemic levels within a fortinght.
The latest report estimates that more than 15 per cent of people have been left suffering influenza like-illness in the past week - equating to more than 8.3 million people.
Health officials said levels were highest among those aged 45 to 64.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “General practice continues to face huge winter pressures with a significant increase in patients presenting with influenza, and high numbers of patients continuing to present with other common winter illnesses.
“Wintertime always brings challenges for the health service, and GP practices have prepared well in order to deliver the best possible care for patients. But patients can also help in keeping themselves safe and well during the cold weather.
“The best prevention for flu, other than observing good hygienic practices, such as regular hand washing, is for people, particularly those in at-risk groups, including patients with long-term conditions and pregnant women, to get their flu jab. It is not too late to receive some benefit from vaccination.
“If someone does have the flu, unfortunately there is no cure, but patients can assist their own recovery through taking plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids as it is easy to become dehydrated. Fevers and muscle ache, which are often symptoms of flu can also be improved with paracetamol or ibuprofen, if appropriate.
“We do encourage patients who are ill to think hard about whether they do need to see a GP – not just in terms of reducing pressures on the NHS, but to minimise the possibility of passing viruses, such as flu, to other people, particularly in at-risk groups, such as those with long-term conditions or pregnant women."