Flu death toll in United Kingdom continues to rise

The death toll from the flu in the United Kingdom has risen to 17 people this winter, including six children.

Fourteen of the deaths have been linked to the H1N1 swine flu, which caused 457 deaths in the United Kingdom in 2009.

Most of the victims have been under the age of 65, while eight of the 17 deaths were in at-risk patients who had other health problems, including asthma and diabetes, according to a Health Protection Agency confirmation, the Daily Mail reports.

Only 40 percent of people in at-risk groups under the age of 65, which includes pregnant women, diabetes-sufferers and those with heart conditions, have been vaccinated for the three strains of flu this season.

The flu has not been more widespread than it had been for the same period in previous years, professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, told the Daily Mail.

“It’s not unusual to see this level of flu activity at this time of the year but we are seeing more severe illness in people under the age of 65 than we would normally,” professor John Watson said, according to the Daily Mail. “Flu vaccination offers the best protection…and we urge all those in ‘at risk’ groups – including pregnant women and healthcare workers – to get themselves vaccinated as soon as possible. It’s not too late and it could save lives.”