Britain facing flu epidemic

According to data compiled by the British government, influenza levels are higher and are rising more sharply than they did at this point in 1999, when the country was on its way to a flu epidemic.

The country has had a difficult time treating the current number of cases because Tamiflu, the main drug used for treatment, is in short supply in some parts of the country, the Telegraph reports. Officials worry that with millions of citizens visiting friends and family during the holiday period, the flu rate might reach epidemic numbers within a week.

"The numbers now are worse than they were in the winter of 1999, and the curve is steeper," Professor John Oxford, a virologist and influenza expert, said, according to the Telegraph. "When you look at the graph the line for this year, it is incredibly unsettling; it looks like scaling Everest.

The amount of patients with the flu in intensive care beds has doubled to 460 from last week to this week. The current flu rate of 87.1 cases per 100,000 in English and Wales is triple the number of last week, the Telegraph reports. The levels compare with 60 per 100,000 population that were present in the 1999 lead-up to Christmas.

Some flu experts attribute the high numbers to the lack of a government national advertising campaign advising people to get vaccinated for the flu, which was a staple of previous years.