Huge surge in hospital flu cases as NHS warns of ‘most challenging winter ever’

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OVER ten times more people are in hospital with flu this winter compared with this time last year, new figures reveal.

There were 344 patients in hospital with flu last week, while there were only 31 at the beginning of December last year, according to data released by NHS England.

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The sharp rise in flu cases coincide with an increase in staff sickness levels and absencesCredit: Getty

A staggering 19 in 20 general and acute beds are currently taken up, NHS England’s first early weekly winter update also found.

The sharp rise in flu cases coincide with an increase in staff sickness levels and absences.

New figures show nearly 360,000 NHS staff were absent from work last week through illness or self-isolating due to Covid.

The data follows warnings from leaders that the NHS is facing a ‘tripledemic’ threat of covid, flu and record demand on urgent and emergency services.

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Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “The figures also show that flu is unfortunately already with us and so the concerns that we had about the threat of a ‘tripledemic’ are very real.

“It has never been more important to get protected against the viruses ahead of winter so please book in for your jab if you are eligible if not already done so,” he added.

Earlier this month, The Sun launched it’s Do The Double campaign to urge Brits to protect against both Covid and flu.

Since launching our campaign, the number jabbed against flu has surged from 15million to 16million — out of 33million eligible.

Covid injections rose from 14million to 14.6million, out of 26million.

Health minister Maria Caulfield said yesterday: “I welcome The Sun’s continued support of our vaccine programme.

“I know readers are excited to spend quality time with their loved ones this Christmas.

What are the flu symptoms?

The symptoms of flu are very similar to those of a very bad cold.

The NHS says this includes a suffer high temperature of 38C or more.

A high temperature had previously been a symptom of Covid, but the experts said that this is less likely with the Omicron strain.

You will also experience body aches and a dry cough.

You may also have difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite and feeling or being sick.

You are less likely to experience these with a cold or the Omicron strain.

So when it comes to spotting the difference between flu and Covid, it should be straight forward.

Experts at the CDC said: “People with flu virus infection are potentially contagious for about one day before they show symptoms. However, it is believed that flu is spread mainly by people who are symptomatic with flu virus infection.

“Older children and adults with flu appear to be most contagious during the first 3-4 days of their illness, but some people might remain contagious for slightly longer periods.

“Infants and people with weakened immune systems can be contagious for even longer.”

But there is a finer line between a cold and Omicron, so you should look out for any secondary infections such as ear infections.

It’s also important to note that you could have coronavirus, but have an asymptomatic infection – meaning you might not know you have the bug.

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