Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
2:00 PM 3rd November 2023

Flu And COVID-19 Surveillance Report Published - 3 November 2023

The latest national flu and COVID-19 surveillance report, which includes respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) data, and national norovirus and rotavirus surveillance report, have been published along with the latest public health advice.

Image by Katja Fuhlert from Pixabay
Image by Katja Fuhlert from Pixabay
RSV surveillance up until end of week 43

The overall positivity (amongst people with symptoms tested at sentinel ‘spotter’ laboratories) for RSV increased to 8.7%, with the highest positivity in those aged under 5 years at 34.1%.

Emergency departments attendances for acute bronchiolitis continued to increase nationally, as well as hospital admission rates.

Dr Conall Watson, Consultant Epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said:
"UKHSA surveillance this week is showing further increases in RSV and RSV bronchiolitis in young children in laboratory testing and hospital emergency departments. While usually mild, RSV infection can cause breathing difficulties in babies and the elderly. Initial symptoms in infants are similar to a cold but can go on to include breathing more quickly or noisily and having difficulties feeding.

"If your baby has a cold that is getting worse, or it is causing unusual breathing or problems feeding, call NHS 111 or contact your GP practice. As a parent, you should trust your own judgement and call 999 or go to A&E if your child seems seriously unwell.

"You can protect yourself and others by washing your hands regularly, using a tissue to catch coughs or sneezes and washing your hands afterwards, and staying away from others if you feel unwell. RSV is another reason why babies need protection from tobacco smoke as this is linked with more severe RSV infections."

Flu surveillance up until end of week 43

Multiple indicators show that flu case rates this week remained stable.

Through Respiratory DataMart, influenza positivity remained stable at 1.3% this week, compared to 1.2% last week.

The overall flu hospital admission for this week was 0.22 per 100,000 population, a slight increase from 0.11 per 100,000 last week.

Flu intensive care unit (ICU) admission rates remain at baseline levels.

Those aged 85 years and over have the highest level of hospital admissions with a rate of 1.01 per 100,000 population.

The provisional proportion of people in England who have received the 2023 to 2024 influenza vaccine in targeted groups is as follows:

68.5% in all aged 65 years and over
29.7% in all aged 3 years
30.7% in all aged 2 years
29.4% in those aged under 65 years in a clinical risk group
23.0% in all pregnant women

COVID-19 surveillance up until end of week 43

Multiple indicators show that COVID-19 case rates have decreased compared to the previous week.

A total 8.7% of 5,350 respiratory specimens reported through the Respiratory DataMart System were identified as COVID-19. This is a decrease compared to the previous week where 10.1% of 5,206 specimens were found to be COVID-19.

Pillar 1 positivity for this week’s report is 12.5% positivity, resulting in 403 cases, a decrease from 13.5% positivity, resulting in 528 cases in the previous week.

The overall COVID-19 hospital admission rate is 4.04 per 100,000 population, a decrease from 4.62 per 100,000 in the previous week.

ICU admission rates for this week’s report remained low and stable, at 0.03 per 100,000 population.

Hospital admission rates have decreased in most age groups, except 2. We have seen slight increases in those aged under 5 years, and those aged 55 to 64 years.

Those aged 85 years and over continue to have the highest hospital admission rates; these have decreased to 47.52 per 100,000 population from 48.25 per 100,000 in the previous week.

Admission rates among those aged 75 to 84 years have decreased to 17.84 per 100,000 population from 23.77 per 100,000 in the previous week.

Hospital admission rates for COVID-19 are highest in the West Midlands at 5.67 per 100,000 population this week.

A total 61.0% (6,807,130 out of 11,164,326) of all people aged over 65 years who are living and resident in England have been vaccinated with an autumn 2023 COVID-19 booster dose since 1 September 2023.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Director of Public Health Programmes at UKHSA, said:
"In this week’s surveillance report, flu activity currently remains stable but as we approach the winter season we expect to see rates increase over the next few weeks. We continue to monitor rates closely and remind people that when you show signs of respiratory symptoms, you should avoid mixing with others where possible – this will help to combat the spread of viruses like flu and COVID-19. COVID-19 infection rates continue to decrease.

"We launched our ‘get winter strong’ campaign this week, targeting those eligible but still unvaccinated to come forward and join the millions protected ahead of the festive season. It is always best to get vaccinated before we reach peak flu season and see a possible increase in COVID-19 cases throughout the colder months. Book your flu and COVID-19 vaccination online while cases remain low, as this will give you the best protection against flu and COVID-19.

"You can also use the NHS website to check if you are eligible for either, or both vaccines. If you have had any changes in your health or recently begun to live, care or work with vulnerable people it might be worth checking to see if you are eligible."

Norovirus surveillance up until end of week 42

Norovirus laboratory reports decreased in recent weeks and during the 2-week period of the 2023 to 2024 season (weeks 41 and 42) were 20% lower than the 5-season average of the same period.

Overall, the total number of reported enteric virus (all suspected or confirmed as norovirus) outbreaks reported during weeks 41 and 42 remained lower than the 5-season average for the same 2-week period. The majority of outbreaks (66%) were in care home settings.

Amy Douglas, Norovirus Epidemiologist at UKHSA, said:
"While norovirus cases are still low, we expect levels to rise as we head into winter. It’s really important we take steps to try and stop the spread. If you or a family member have been sick with norovirus, you should avoid visiting hospitals and care homes, and not return to work or school, until 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped.

"Hand gels do not kill norovirus, so handwashing with soap and warm water is best. Using bleach-based products to clean surfaces will also help stop the virus from spreading.

"Make sure to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration which can result in hospitalisation, particularly for the most vulnerable."