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Flu and COVID-19 Cases Continue to Decline, But Norovirus Infections Still High

The number of people requiring hospital treatment for COVID-19 and influenza in England decreased in the middle of April, latest figures showed.

Case rates for COVID decreased in the week ending 16 April (week 15) in all age groups, regions, and most ethnic groups, whilst influenza activity remained low and stable compared with the previous week, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said.

Data from the laboratory-based surveillance system, Respiratory DataMart, showed that positivity for SARS-CoV-2 between remained stable at 7.8%, compared with 8.3% in the previous week. The highest positivity was seen in samples from people aged 65 years and over where the positivity rate was 11.1%.

Hospitalisations for COVID-19 decreased slightly overall during this period and were highest for people aged 75 years an over, with a rate of 32.5 per 100,000 population for those aged 75-84, followed by 73.7 per 100,000 for people aged 85 and older. The overall hospital admission rate was 6.2 per 100,000 population, a decrease from 6.5 per 100,000 in the previous week.

Intensive care admission rates due to COVID remained stable [SV1] , whilst attendances at hospital emergency departments for COVID-like illness decreased, the Agency reported.

Hospital admission rates for COVID-19 were highest in the North East of England for the seventh consecutive week, with a rate of 9.0 per 100,000 population, which was a decrease from 10.9 per 100,000 in week 14.

Deaths from COVID-19 were also down last week compared with the previous period.

The highest number of confirmed COVID outbreaks continued to be seen in care homes, with 25 occurring in the week ending 16 April, compared with 23 previously.

The UKHSA issued a reminder that the COVID-19 spring booster vaccine was available to people aged 75 and over, and those aged 5 and over with weakened immune systems.

Dr Jamie Lopez Bernal, consultant epidemiologist for immunisation at the Agency, said: "We are continuing to see the highest hospital admission rates for COVID-19 among the over-75s, so it is important everyone in this age group keeps their immunity topped up by booking in for their booster via the National Booking Service or the NHS app."

Influenza

Sentinel laboratories in the Respiratory DataMart network reported low and stable positivity for influenza at 1.1%, compared with 1.5% the week before. Samples with the highest positivity were seen in the 15 to 44 years age group, at 3.7%, compared with 5.1% in the previous weekly reporting period.

Out of the 59 samples testing positive for influenza, 49 were influenza B, nine were influenza A (not subtyped) and the remaining specimen was influenza A(H1N1)pdm09.

There were no confirmed influenza outbreaks reported in England during the latest reporting week, the UKHSA confirmed.

A mid-season analysis conducted by the Agency and public health agencies suggested that the 'flu vaccine given this year offered good protection against influenza B in circulation.

Norovirus and Rotavirus

Meanwhile, the UKHSA reported that norovirus activity in March was 68% higher than the 5-season average for the same period.

It said that the cumulative number of positive results for the whole season was 6618 up until 2 April, which was 34% higher than the 5-season average up until this time.

The increase followed a sustained period of unusually low norovirus activity lasting between March of the 2019 to 2020 season, and which continued into the 2020 to 2021 season, according to the Agency.

The cumulative number of positive rotavirus laboratory reports in England up until the end of March was reported as 13% lower than the 5-season average.

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