Flu rates almost doubled in London over Christmas, GP warns

Flu rates almost doubled in London over Christmas, GPs revealed today.

The capital also leads the country in the number of people suffering from a common cold, according to the Royal College of General Practitioners.

The figures came after 27 people in the UK died from flu in the first week of January, taking the total number of deaths since the start of winter to 85. 

Victims included 18-year-old Bethany Walker, who was airlifted to hospital in Inverness from her home in the Highlands after developing pneumonia but could not be saved.

The Royal College’s weekly survey of communicable and respiratory diseases today showed rates of influenza-like illness increased in London from 16.7 to 30.3 per 100,000 people, between the last week in December and the first week in January, but still remain below the national average.

The national increase was from 21 to 37.3. London also had lower rates of acute bronchitis and asthma but the highest rate of common colds, which rose from 119.4 per 100,000 to 158.2. 

The true rates could be even higher as GP surgeries were only open on four weekdays at the start of the year. 

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College, said: “Things are incredibly busy, and demand is increasing — not just with flu but with other common winter illnesses as well.” Public Health England said the rate of flu hospitalisations was 2.5 times higher than at the same time last year, with the highest rates in the South of England and the lowest in London. 

Influenza B is more common in London than Influenza A. 

Campaigners insist the NHS winter meltdown — which yesterday saw emergency doctors tell the Prime Minister patients were dying in hospital corridors — is due to a lack of funding and not flu.

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