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Experts fears massive flu epidemic

A sharp rise in the number of people contacting their doctors with extreme cold-like symptoms could herald the biggest flu outbreak for nine years, it has been warned.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) said 69 people in every 100,000 have inundated family doctors complaining of flu symptoms.

This is nearly a three-quarter increase from the 40 people per 100,000 doctors were seeing the previous week.

The increase was biggest among the over 65s, with numbers going from 18 people per 100,000 population to 45 – a massive 151% rise.

Douglas Fleming, a director at the RCGP’s Birmingham Research Unit, said the rates had risen across all regions, adding: “The recent increase is suggestive of an influenza outbreak greater than any seen in the last eight years.”

The 15 to 44 age group scored the highest for patients visiting GPs with symptoms of flu, at 80 per 100,000 population, up 47% on the previous week.

A total of 76 people aged 45 to 64 per 100,000 population booked GP appointments due to flu, an increase of 122%.

The Department of Health’s director of immunisation, Professor David Salisbury said: “Flu has started earlier this year than last year and the figures show an increase in the number of people consulting their GPs with flu-like illnesses.”

Copyright Press Association 2008