The number of people suffering from flu-like illnesses in Scotland more than doubled in the first week of 2018 compared to the previous week, official figures show
According to the latest report from Health Protection Scotland, the number of people suffering is now four times higher than the same week last year.
Health Protection Scotland said 107 people per 100,000 of the Scottish population were diagnosed in the week ending January 7, up from 46 per 100,000 on the last week of 2017.
The rise comes at a time when the Scottish Government’s handling of the NHS is under scrutiny amid reports that hospitals are struggling to cope with the increased demand caused by winter illnesses.
The current predominant strain remains one that is covered by this year’s flu vaccine.
Clinicians are encouraging those in eligible groups to protect themselves and their families by getting the vaccine.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “These statistics confirm what we’ve been hearing up and down the country that the complexity of treating flu, including appropriate diagnosis and segregation to avoid cross-contamination, is putting our health system under significant pressure.
“Emergency departments saw the highest level of attendances over the festive period in a number of years - during the two week festive period attendances were up 10 per cent compared to the previous year, with a 20 per cent rise in the week leading up to Christmas. Despite these challenges, over 82 per cent of patients were still seen within the four hour target in Scotland’s core A&Es throughout December, compared to 77.3 per cent in England.
“Staff up and down the country are doing a remarkable job, and I am continuing to visit hospitals around the country to thank them personally for their hard work and dedication during this busy time.”
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith said: “While we’ve still got a couple of months of winter left, this week’s statistics provide further evidence that the vaccine is a good match against the current most common strains. I would encourage anyone in an eligible group to get vaccinated - it is the best defence against flu.
“The best way to stop the spread of flu is to follow simple hygiene practices. Wash your hands often with warm water and soap, use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze, and bin those tissues as quickly as possible.
“It is so important that people are aware of the steps they can take to avoid being struck down by the virus, and know that it’s not too late to be vaccinated.”