The majority of people who have died from flu in the UK had the swine flu virus, figures show.
The number of deaths from flu has reached 254 since September, a substantial rise on the 112 deaths recorded last week, with 195 of the 214 deaths on which information is available linked to the H1N1 strain.
Despite the sharp rise, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said flu rates are decreasing, with GPs and NHS Direct reporting falls in the number of flu-related visits and calls they are receiving, and figures relating to flu deaths are usually a week or two behind the peak period of any outbreak.
The number of patients in critical care being treated for suspected cases of flu have also fallen sharply, from 661 last week to 418 this week.
Of these, 20 were under five, six were aged 5-15, 344 were aged 16-64 and 48 were over 65.
Of the 210 cases where information was available on age, seven deaths were of children under five, 11 of patients aged 5-14, 137 of those aged 15-64, and 55 of those aged 65 or over.
Professor John Watson, the HPA’s head of respiratory diseases, said the rates of flu were “very much in line” with what was expected.
He said deaths were normally highest a few weeks after the peak period of flu infections, partly because of delays in recording the information.
He said: “We expect further deaths to be reported and confirmed by us over the coming weeks.”
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