Health Protection Agency (HPA) data shows a rise in the numbers of patients developing bacterial infections as a complication of flu this winter.
The increase has led interim CMO Professor Dame Sally Davies to warn clinicians to stay alert for signs of severe illness caused by this co-infection.
She said: ‘All clinicians should continue to remain vigilant for the possibility of severe illness due to bacterial co-infection with influenza including iGAS, pneumococcal and meningococcal infection, and to be aware of the possibility of such bacterial co-infection in people with flu-like illness.’
GPs should ensure antiviral treatment is started as soon as possible in line with national guidance and that patients with a flu-like illness that fails to improve are reviewed, she added.
Most cases of meningococcal disease are seen during the flu season each year, she added.
Professor Davies reminded doctors that patients can present with non-specific presentations of meningococcal disease that may appear to be flu-like in the early stages.