Flu admissions to hospitals in England have dropped sharply, in fresh evidence the winter wave of infections may have peaked.
Admissions stood at 2.7 per 100,000 people in the week to January 15, down from 6.9 per 100,000 the previous week and the lowest level since mid-November.
Rates remain highest among the oldest age groups, but here the figures also show a steep drop, with admissions among over-85s down week-on-week from 45.2 to 24.7, while for 75 to 84-year-olds the rate has fallen from 24.1 to 8.0.
Attendances at A&E departments for flu-like illness are down among all age groups and regions, while admissions to intensive care units are now in the “low” activity range, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
Separate figures released on Thursday show the overall number of flu patients in hospitals in England has fallen by more than a third since the start of the year.
An average of 3,447 flu patients were in hospital beds each day last week, down 37% from the week to January 1, NHS data shows.
At this point last winter, the figure stood at just 41.
The drop in flu levels comes after a surge in cases in the run-up to Christmas, which the UKHSA described as the worst flu season for a decade.
Flu is one of a number of pressures the NHS has been facing this winter, along with bed shortages, delayed discharges of medically fit patients, and a fresh wave of Covid-19 infections.
The number of people in hospital with coronavirus is now on a downwards path, however.
There were 6,299 patients with Covid-19 in hospitals in England on January 18, down 33% since January 1.
The figure peaked at 9,535 on December 29 – well below the level reached in previous waves of the virus.
Covid-19 hospital admissions stood at 6.7 per 100,000 people last week, down from 8.9 per 100,000 the previous week.
Dr Mary Ramsay, UKHSA head of immunisation, said the latest figures were “good news” but warned that “winter isn’t over yet and we need to guard against further surges”.
She added: “Vaccination is our best defence against flu and Covid-19, so if your children are eligible for the flu vaccine, it’s still not too late to come forward.
“Hospital admissions for Covid-19 remain highest in the oldest age groups, so it’s vital that those eligible continue to come forward for their booster jab.
“The pandemic has disrupted the usual seasonal timings of many infections, so we could see flu activity outside the usual winter period – another reason to take up the vaccines now.”