Public health experts have urged people to get vaccinated as deadly ‘Aussie flu’ continues to contribute to cases of striking down people over the Christmas period.
Public Health England said flu activity had continued to increase in the last week or two, including the A(H3N2) strain known as Australian flu.
A number of people in Ireland have already been killed by the deadly H3N2 subtype of the virus, the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) confirmed, though doctors have not revealed an exact figure.
UFC star Conor McGregor was also said to have been bedridden after being hit by a bout of the strain of the virus.
Nick Phin, Interim Deputy Director for National Infection Service, said: “Flu activity, as measured by a number of different systems, has continued to increase in the last week or two. This is to be expected as the season progresses, and while no two flu seasons are the same, the numbers are in-keeping with previous years.
“We are currently seeing a mix of flu types, including flu B and the A(H3N2) strain that circulated last winter in the UK and then in Australia. We see this H3N2 subtype in many flu seasons and the circulating flu strains match those in the current flu vaccines meaning they are still the best defence we have against the virus.”
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He added: “As in past flu seasons, the Chief Medical Officer has authorised the use of antivirals for treating flu-like illnesses communities. We will continue to actively monitor flu activity and we are working closely with NHS England to support their work putting measures in place to manage potential increases in local and national flu activity.
“It is not too late to get vaccinated and we therefore urge all who are eligible, especially those in at-risk groups that include people aged 65 years or over, pregnant women, and those with certain chronic conditions, to take up the offer of the vaccine.”
The Aussie flu affected 250,000 Australians last winter, with hundreds dying as a result of contracting the virus.
It primarily affects the elderly, children and pregnant women and those suffering long-term health conditions but deaths were also recorded in healthy young adults.
Symptoms are similar to standard flu but they are far more severe.
A vaccine was created in March 2017, although there are fears it may not always work after the virus mutated.
Scientists in the US said that the H3N2 vaccine was now only 10% effective because of the mutation.