The PHE influenza report found that flu deaths were up in 2014/15 despite levels of vaccination remaining steady.
The virus affected a disproportionate number of elderly people, with ‘numerous outbreaks’ in care homes. Hospital admissions and deaths among those in intensive care as a result of flu were also higher than in the past few years.
The number of GP consultations for flu-like illnesses exceeded epidemic proportions, when assessed using the Moving Epidemic Method, used to standardise flu reporting across Europe.
GP flu consultations must reach 15.6 out of every 100,000 people for it to be classified as an epidemic. In the first two weeks of 2015, 28.3 in every 100,000 of the population consulted their GP for flu-like illnesses, with the epidemic lasting for 17 weeks in total.
Tests done during the middle of the flu season showed that the flu vaccine was only 2.3% effective against the main strain of the virus – even lower than the 3% estimate published by PHE earlier this year.
The vaccine strain for the upcoming flu season is more closely related to the form of H3N2 that circulated last season, the report says.