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More young people are dying from flu, report reveals

More than 70% of fatal cases were under 65 years old

Jo Carlowe

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Young and middle aged adults bore the brunt of influenza this winter with more than 70% of fatal cases hitting this age group.

The Health Protection Agency revealed in its newly published annual flu report that compared with other age groups, those between 15 and 64 were also more likely to have visited their GPs with flu-like illness and their rates of admission to hospital were higher.

Across all age groups, 602 people in the UK were reported to the HPA as having died with a confirmed influenza infection during the 2010/11 season.

More than 70% of those fatal cases - 415 - were in young and middle aged people aged 15-64 years. Around 20% of confirmed deaths - 122 - were in the over 64s.

Across all age groups, almost 70% (373 out of 555) of those who died this season were in a clinical 'at risk' group for vaccination.

Information on vaccination history was available for just over half of the fatal cases and almost 75% (229 out of 307) had not received the flu vaccine this year.

Among children, there were 25 reported deaths in those aged five to 14 years, 16 in children aged between one and four and nine in children less than a year old.

To date, nine pregnant women are reported to have died from flu this season.

Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA, said: "The information published in our annual flu report confirms that seasonal flu activity in 2010/11 was higher than last winter and that H1N1 'swine' flu was the dominant strain. Sadly, a small proportion of flu cases resulted in serious illness and death, predominantly in young and middle aged adults.

"Each year hundreds of thousands of people catch flu and the majority will make a full recovery. Traditionally the elderly have been more seriously affected by winter flu but the picture is beginning to change as we are now seeing a higher proportion of young and middle aged people taken seriously ill."

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