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UK should brace for early flu outbreak amid fears 60,000 could die, expert warns

The UK’s flu season usually begins in September and ends in March but Dr John McCauley, a prominent flu scientist, says spiralling cases in China, India and Croatia

Everything you need to know about flu and how the flu jab works

Britain could be hit with an early flu outbreak because cases are already soaring abroad, a top expert has warned.

Dr John McCauley says spiralling cases in China, India and Croatia could indicate an earlier wave of infections in the UK this year.

It comes amid a warning that immunity against bugs is so low after Covid lockdowns that the flu could kill 60,000 people.

The UK’s flu season usually begins in September and ends in March but the NHS usually starts to feel the pressure in January.

However Dr McCauley – a prominent flu scientist based at London’s Francis Crick Institute – says Brits should prepare for an earlier surge in cases due to a rise in infections overseas.



Britain could be hit with an early flu outbreak
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He told MailOnline that Croatia, China and India had all experienced a rise in infections.

“It’s over the next few weeks that we will be able to tell if what we are seeing now is sustained. If it is, we might expect an early flu season,” he added.

“There is flu being picked up in some places, but whether it is spreading in some of these (eg Norway and the Netherlands) is not known for certain.”

His warning comes as Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, fears Brits will face a deadly double act of Covid and flu this winter due to waning immunity.







Dr Harries said the public “should be worried about the flu each winter”.

Speaking to Trevor Phillips on Sky she warned that those who catch both illnesses at the same time are twice as likely to die than patients with Covid alone.

She said: “On average over the past five years, around 11,000 people have died [per year] with flu-related conditions.



Professor Jonathan Van-Tam is warning the flu could kill 60,000 people due to low immunity




“The important thing about this winter is that we’re likely to see flu, for the first time in any real numbers, co-circulating with Covid.

“The risks of both together still remain.

“The early evidence suggests you’re twice as likely to die from the two together than just Covid alone.”

Last week Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy chief medical officer, warned that immunity against bugs is so low after lockdowns that the flu could kill 60,000 people.







He said: “Not many people got flu last year because of Covid restrictions, so there isn’t as much natural immunity as usual.

“We will see flu circulate this winter. It might be higher than usual and that makes it a significant public health concern. Covid-19 will still be circulating and with more people mixing indoors, sadly some increases are possible.

“For the first time we will have Covid-19 and flu co-circulating.”

Urging people to get the Covid jab, he added: “We need to take this seriously and defend ourselves and the NHS by getting the annual flu jab and the Covid-19 booster when called. Both these viruses are serious.

“They can both spread easily, cause hospitalisation and they can both be fatal.

“It is really important that people get their vaccines as soon as they can.”


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