93 dead in flu outbreak: Mother 'broken' after teenage daughter, 18, dies of bug sweeping UK as deaths soar by 77% in a week as country struggles against aggressive 'Aussie' and 'Japanese' strains
- Latest figures state 93 people have died from the bug in England and Scotland
- Just 48 flu deaths were recorded last week, Public Health England data shows
- New statistics also show the killer virus has left 1,938 in hospital since October
- A quarter of these have been triggered by 'Aussie flu' and half from 'Japanese'
A mother has revealed her heartache after her 18-year-old daughter died from one of the deadly flu bugs currently sweeping the UK.
Bethany Walker, of Applecross in northern Scotland, passed away from pneumonia, which was triggered by the virus, last week.
Her death comes as flu fatalities have soared by 77 per cent in just a week in England, Government figures reveal as fears of the worst outbreak in 50 years loom large.
The latest update, released today, states 93 people have lost their lives to flu already this winter - 85 in England and eight in Scotland. The figure for England compares to the previous total of 48 recorded last week.
Miss Walker was one of four to die in Scotland from flu last week alone, with 27 new fatalities recorded in England. A similar in-depth breakdown of figures doesn't exist for Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland.
Scotland appears to have been hit the hardest in the UK so far this winter because it is the only home nation to report a significant number of ‘excess deaths’ - when more deaths have occurred than expected.
Figures also show that for every 100,000 patients in Scotland, 107.3 have displayed ‘influenza-like’ symptoms in their GP consultations. This is more than double the amount in Northern Ireland (52.6) and almost triple that of Wales (38.9). In contrast, England’s rate is 37.3.
Public Health England data also shows the killer virus has left 1,938 in hospital since October - a quarter because of 'Aussie flu' and half from 'Japanese flu'.
Cases of flu have reached their worst levels since 2010/11. This is adding extra pressure onto an already stretched NHS, which is considered to be in the midst of its worst winter on record.
This map, based on figures from Public Health England, illustrates how often flu-like symptoms were reported to GPs last week. Orange represents the areas that have a very high amount of flu-like symptoms compared to green areas which have low numbers (no regional breakdown can be provided for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland)
This map illustrates the how often influenza-like symptoms were being reported across England last week (no in-depth regional breakdown can be provided for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland)
MOTHER'S HEARTACHE AS HER 18-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER DIES FROM FLU
An 18-year-old girl has become the tragic victim of the flu, her heartbroken mother has revealed.
Bethany Walker, from Applecross, died after taking ill at home - initially from flu symptoms which later developed into pneumonia.
Miss Walker was airlifted to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness but died later last Friday. Tributes have poured in on social media.
Bethany Walker, from Applecross, died after taking ill at home - initially from flu symptoms which later developed into pneumonia
Her mother Heather Teale wrote on Facebook: 'My beautiful Daughter Bethany Walker was taken from me yesterday (Jan 5).
'She had been suffering from a flu virus, which became pneumonia.
'She was airlifted to Raigmore with me by her side yesterday morning (Jan 5), where she rapidly deteriorated.
'The staff in Intensive Care could not have done more, she was given the best possible treatment from a team of eight people for over two hours, they tried everything possible but sadly despite their best efforts she didn't make it.'
She added: 'I am broken, the bottom has fallen out of my world. I have my mum with me, and my wonderful son Danny Walker who are both feeling the same loss as I am.
Miss Walker was airlifted to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness but died later last Friday. Tributes have poured in on social media
'Life will never be the same again. Bethany, I love you to the moon and back, I always have and I always will, you were the best daughter I could have ever wished for and I will always be the proudest mum in the world.
'I have no more words. I'm truly devastated. Sleep tight my beautiful girl, your brother and I will love you forever, you will never be out of my thoughts as long as I live.'
Among those paying his respects was TV adventurer Monty Halls, who lived on the Applecross peninsula in 2008 for his Great Escapes series.
He wrote: 'Heather, I am so, so sorry to hear this news - it is beyond comprehension. Words seem so completely inadequate.
'Every member of the film crew for Great Escapes remembers her so fondly, a total delight.
'My deepest condolences to you, and your family. I know the entire team send their best wishes, their thoughts, and their love. Monty xxx'
The Applecross Inn Facebook also paid its own special tribute: 'Farewell to dear Bethany another fantastic member of our team who we sadly lost last Friday after a short illness, you were the 'belle of the ball' at Hogmanay......and indeed everywhere.
'Such a tragic loss of someone so perfect in every way, so polite, such beauty, humour, fun, music and studies.
'You were pure pleasure as an employee.....loved by every member of our team, so much devotion and dedication to all you did.'
Miss Walker wanted to study midwifery and was due to head for Aberdeen University later this year.
The new PHE figures come as others have also lost their battle with the killer virus. They include Melanie Coombs, a 56-year-old grandmother, who died from flu - after beating terminal cancer twice.
World War II veteran Owen Hardy, 95, from Chichester, has also died from flu during the past week, his grieving daughter revealed. During his time in the RAF, he was awarded the top medal for valour – the Legion d’Honneur.
Health bosses have blamed the rapidly escalating cases of flu for their controversial decision to cancel 55,000 operations last week - a move also made by French officials as the European country battles an epidemic.
HOW IS THE REST OF THE UK FARING?
Scotland has seen cases of flu more than double in the past week and is now the worst affected nation in the UK, figures from Health Protection Scotland show.
It is unclear how many flu deaths have occurred in Scotland already this winter – but it has one of the highest number of excess deaths in Europe.
The term ‘excess deaths’ is used when more deaths have occurred than expected and the figure is calculated using data analysis from previous years.
Scotland is considered to be the only country in the UK to be suffering from ‘excess deaths’. No data exists to pinpoint the exact number of deaths in either Wales or Northern Ireland.
Figures also show that for every 100,000 patients in Scotland, 107.3 have displayed ‘influenza-like’ symptoms in their GP consultations.
This is more than double the amount in Northern Ireland (52.6) and almost triple that of Wales (38.9). In contrast, England’s rate is 37.3.
Experts fear the dreaded Aussie flu is more severe than the Swine flu pandemic of 2009 which killed nearly 300,000 people across the world.
The rocketing number of flu cases has been put down to a surge in two aggressive subtypes attacking the population simultaneously.
One includes the so-called 'Aussie flu', a strain of influenza A which triggered triple the number of expected cases in Australia during the country's winter.
Experts fear the virulent H3N2 strain, which has now reached the UK, could prove as deadly to humanity as the Hong Kong flu in 1968, which killed one million people.
The other is a strain of influenza B, called Yamagata and dubbed 'Japanese flu', which has been blamed for the majority of cases so far this winter. Its rapid spread has raised concerns because it is not covered in a vaccine given to the elderly.
Usually, just one subtype, either influenza A or B, is responsible for the majority of cases. It spreads easily in the cold weather.
Of the 1,938 confirmed hospital cases of flu, 432 have been caused by H3N2.
Some 199 were caused by H1N1, which triggered the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that killed 50 million. A further 448 strains of influenza A were unidentified.
The remaining 859 cases were caused by strains of influenza B, including 'Japanese flu', which usually produces less side effects, according to PHE data.
GRANDMOTHER WHO BEAT TERMINAL CANCER TWICE DIES FROM FLU
A grandmother who defied her death sentence and beat terminal cancer three times died after being struck down with symptoms of 'Aussie flu', it is claimed.
Melanie Coombs, 56, of Hailsham, East Sussex, eventually succumbed to pneumonia and passed away in hospital shortly after Christmas.
Her grieving son, Anthony Butler, 30, believes the deadly H3N2 strain of influenza A, dubbed 'Aussie flu' was responsible for his mother's eventual death.
Speaking about his 'inspirational' mother's ordeal for the first time, he told Mirror Online: 'She said, "cancer won't kill me" - and she was right.
Melanie Coombs, 56, of Hailsham, East Sussex, eventually succumbed to pneumonia and passed away in hospital shortly after Christmas (pictured with her son)
'She had such inner strength - to say to cancer, "you're not going to win". It was unbelievable strength from an inspirational woman I'm so proud of.'
The widow reported hallucinations - a symptom echoed by many sufferers struck down the flu this winter - as well as a fever.
Her condition rapidly deteriorated as she was rushed to Eastbourne District General Hospital, which is where she eventually passed away.
Doctors have yet to confirm if Ms Coombs succumbed to flu, but Mr Butler warned her symptoms matched that of the 'Aussie flu' virus sweeping the UK.
She was first diagnosed with cancer four years ago. Ms Coombs, who was 'almost clear' of bowel cancer, went on to beat terminal duodenal cancer twice.
France has been rocked by an 'exceptional' outbreak, with nearly 12,000 people having been left hospitalised (the graphic shows how many people per 100,000 have been infected for each region - any more than 400 is considered an epidemic)
Public Health England data also shows the killer virus has left 1,938 in hospital - a quarter of which because of so-called 'Aussie flu'
WORLD WAR II HERO, 95, DIES AFTER CONTRACTING FLU
A World War II Spitfire veteran has died after contracting one of the killer flu strains that is currently circulating the UK, his grieving daughter has revealed.
Owen Hardy, 95, from Chichester, lost his battle to the bug on January 4. His family have said his death is a ‘huge loss for the nation’.
During his time serving for the RAF in the war, the wing commander’s heroics saw him be awarded the top medal for valour – the Legion d’Honneur.
Owen Hardy, 95, from Chichester, lost his battle to the bug on January 4 (pictured during an event at Goodwood last year where he took control of a Spitfire, like he used to in the war)
His heartbroken daughter, Debbie Elliott, told the Chichester Observer: ‘It’s a huge loss. We’re all devastated. He has left a huge gap in all of our lives.
‘He’s not just a huge loss for us, but a huge loss for the nation. He was part of a very special generation.’
The veteran pilot, described as a 'very modest and quiet man', also was awarded Britain's Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar.
He was able to perform a barrel roll while he was in control of a Spitfire during an event at Goodwood last year.
Mr Hardy, who was born in New Zealand, left behind five great-grandchildren, four grandchildren, his daughter Ms Elliot and son Andrew.
At this point last year, deemed week two by PHE, just 497 people had been hospitalised by flu.
CASES OF INFLUENZA
Statistics from Public Health England reveal how many people were infected during week 1 of the previous four winters.
However, this winter's outbreak shows no signs of slowing down, as flu cases are expected to rocket even further in the coming weeks.
An analysis of data from week one shows the number of new cases each week is 9 times higher than that of 2015 - when 296 were recorded.
During that winter, Government figures suggested the winter flu played a role in more than 16,000 deaths. Only 577 were recorded in the previous winter.
The total recorded in week 51 is also more than double that of last year, when 684 cases, mainly of the H3N2 subtype, were reported.
Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases and global health at Oxford University, believes this winter 'may well be worse than others'.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline yesterday, Professor Horby said: 'Generally H3N2 tends to be a bit more severe than the H1N1 in 2009.'
His comments came as a leading virologist predicted another cold snap will fuel the spread of H3N2 and 'kick cases into another orbit'.
Professor John Oxford, of Queen Mary University in London, exclusively warned that the killer virus spreads much easier when temperatures plummet.
Forecasters believe the cold weather will continue - forcing adults to flock indoors and be surrounded by others where they can catch flu easier.
The sharp rise in flu is only expected to cause further problems for the NHS, with cases of the winter vomiting bug also continuing to soar.
Latest figures show 2,551 people have been infected with norovirus since July. The figure has raised at a steady level week-on-week since October.
Flu is also 'actively circulating' in Ireland, with less than ten people having lost their lives to the killer virus so far in this winter's outbreak.
It comes as health officials have warned a flu jab that has already been dished out to thousands of patients is ineffective against a prominent strain
'I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO DIE': WOMAN, 27, FEARED FOR HER LIFE AFTER CATCHING 'AUSSIE FLU'
A 27-year-old woman feared she was ‘going to die’ after she claims she caught the killer ‘Aussie flu’ virus that is currently circulating the UK.
Jade Dodd, from Brighton, described her two-week battle with the dreaded bug, which left her bedbound, as the ‘worst of my life’.
In an interview with The Argus, she said: ‘I’ve had flu once before, but this was a whole other level. You can hardly move and everything just hits you at once. I thought I was going to die.
‘I felt as if I was sitting in a sauna with a terrible hangover. My throat hurt so badly that it hurt to swallow.
‘I felt lifeless, with no energy. I couldn’t even stand to watch TV. It’s so intense for so long that you think it’s never going to end.’
Tests have yet to confirm her fears, but the H3N2 strain of influenza A, more commonly known as Aussie flu, has rapidly spread across the south of England in recent weeks.
Jade Dodd, from Brighton, described her two-week battle with the dreaded bug, which left her bedbound, as the ‘worst of my life’
And in the US, the flu is already gripping 36 states and has killed at least 70 people in the US, according to data released by the CDC.
Professor Oxford has also revealed he is keeping his 'fingers crossed' as he fears the current epidemic in France could replicate itself in Britain.
The European country has been rocked by an 'exceptional' outbreak, with nearly 12,000 people having been left hospitalised and more than 30 dead.
Figures show the UK is heading the same way, with scientists concerned the flu causing havoc on the over-stretched NHS is 'unpredictable'.
The Ministry of Health in France issued an alert about flu earlier this week, warning that the outbreak has still yet to reach its peak.
It read: 'The influenza epidemic is of an exceptional magnitude, by the number of cases, which risks exceeding those of the last two years.'
The rocketing cases prompted Marisol Touraine, the country's health minister, to delay non-urgent operations to free up hospital beds.
THE FLU JAB DOESN'T WORK!
Health officials have admitted a flu jab that has already been dished out to thousands may be targeting the wrong strain of the virus.
Public Health England has announced the trivalent vaccine is not effective against a common type of influenza B which is currently circulating.
An analysis revealed 21 cases of influenza B have been caused by the B/Yamagata type - which isn't covered by the cheaper jab.
The strain has been responsible for a surge in cases of flu across England and Wales this winter - putting extra pressure on the NHS.
In a letter to GPs, PHE suggested only adults given the quadrivalent vaccine would face protection from the emerging B strain.
GPs in the south west were told: 'It is possible that flu will be seen among individuals, both staff and patients, who have accepted this vaccination.'
The trivalent vaccines, which protect against one strain of B and two of A, are most commonly used in NHS surgeries because they are cheaper, The Times reports.
This controversial move was mirrored by Jeremy Hunt last week, with the NHS having being plunged into chaos amid a spike in flu cases.
Mr Hunt, made Health and Social Secretary in Prime Minister Theresa May's cabinet reshuffle yesterday, made the unprecedented decision to cancel 55,000 operations.
Experts have already warned of a 'double-whammy' of new cases, as kids head back to school and swarms of travellers return from flu-hit France.
No areas of the UK are believed to be free of the potentially fatal bug, which has forced GPs to cancel holidays and work late into the night.
Australia - whose winter occurs during the British summer - had one of its worst outbreaks on record, with two and a half times the normal number of cases.
Some of the country's A&E units had 'standing room only' after being swamped by more than 100,000 cases of the H3N2 strain.
The elderly with their compromised immune systems are particularly susceptible, and a spike in cases among young children has also been shown.
The flu season in the UK and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere tends to mirror what has happened in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere.
The same strains of the virus will circulate north in time for the British flu season, which typically begins in November and lasts until March.
Flu viruses are constantly changing proteins on their surface to avoid detection by the body's immune system - making it more deadly.
This transformation is called an 'antigenic shift' if it's large enough, and can lead to a pandemic. This was responsible for the swine flu outbreak in 2009.
The Aussie flu is transforming quickly, but not fast enough for experts to describe it as a shift. However, it is slowly building up immunity.
The new PHE figures follow concerns by researchers that the jab may only be 20 per cent effective this winter - just like last year.
Studies have suggested the H3N2 strain, used in the jab created by World Health Organization scientists, has mutated to evade detection.
NHS PREPARES FOR THE WORST FLU OUTBREAK IN 50 YEARS
The dreaded Aussie flu outbreak that the NHS is preparing for will be the worst in 50 years, experts warned in September.
Some A&E units in Australia had 'standing room only' after being swamped by more than 100,000 cases of the H3N2 strain.
Professor Robert Dingwall, a public health expert at Nottingham Trent University, said it is 'inevitable' it will reach Britain.
He said it could claim as many lives as the Hong Kong flu outbreak in 1968, which killed at least one million people.
Professor Dingwall told The Daily Express in September: 'Based on the Australian experience public health officials need to meet and urgently review emergency planning procedures.
'Public Health England should be working with local authorities and local health services to ensure more hospital beds are freed up. We need to be prepared, alert and flexible.
'There is no point in trying to close the borders. It's almost inevitable this will come to us. This is potentially the worst winter since the Hong Kong flu outbreak of 1968.
'Lots of people have been very badly affected in Australia and whilst their mortality rates are not out yet we suspect this is a more severe strain than most other years.'
Some experts in Australia blamed this as a reason why they suffered such a severe flu outbreak. The vaccine used in the UK will be very similar.
The WHO creates the vaccines in March, based on which flu strains they expected to be in circulation. They are then doled out in September.
And health officials admitted this morning that a flu jab that has already been dished out to thousands may be targeting the wrong strain of the virus.
PHE announced the trivalent vaccine, often used by GPs because it is cheaper, is not effective against a common type of influenza B which is currently circulating.
An analysis of 25 cases of influenza B revealed 21 of them have been caused by the B/Yamagata type - which isn't covered by the cheaper jab.
NHS England penned a letter to all GPs earlier this week warning the vaccine has ‘showed no significant effectiveness in this group over recent seasons’.
Figures show 11 million people deemed at risk, including pregnant women, the over-65s and children under the age of two, received the flu jab in 2016.
WHERE CAN YOU GET THE FLU JAB?
Flu can be a serious illness. If you become very ill with it, it can cause complications such as pneumonia, inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle, and kidney failure.
People at most risk of serious illness or death if they get flu are offered the vaccine on the NHS. Ideally you should have this before the end of December, when flu peaks (it takes about two weeks after the jab for antibodies to develop completely).
At-risk groups include anyone aged 65 and over; people living in long-stay residential care homes; carers and pregnant women.
The vaccine is also offered to anyone aged six months to 65 years with certain conditions, such as diabetes.
It is available via your GP's surgery.
All children aged two to eleven (on August 31, 2017) are also offered the vaccine as a nasal spray. The UK introduced the child vaccination programme in 2013 — last year, the vaccine had 66 per cent effectiveness. Australia does not have a similar programme.
If you don't qualify to have the jab on the NHS, you can pay to get it at a pharmacy.
Well Pharmacy charges £9 to £14 (depending on the number of strains in the vaccine), Superdrug from £9.99, Lloyds Pharmacy £10, Boots £12.99, and Tesco £9.
Older children who fall outside the NHS scheme can get the nasal spray vaccine from some pharmacies such as Well (£23 for those aged between two and 18; this may involve a second dose at least four weeks later for another £23) and the injection for those 12 and over for £9.
Boots offers the jab to those aged 16 and over at £12.99. Tesco offers it to those 12 and over at £9.
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