Flu activity on the rise in the United Kingdom

The U.K.'s Health Protection Agency announced on Thursday that flu activity indicators continue to rise, including admissions to intensive care, general practitioner consultations and the proportion of calls to NHS Direct.

Richard Peabody, the head of seasonal flu surveillance at the HPA, said that the increase in flu activity is typical for this time of year. He said that vaccine uptake figures for elderly patients were encouraging this season.

"Latest vaccine uptake figures for one of the 'at risk' groups - the over 65 age group - are encouraging, with more than 70 percent taking up the offer of the flu vaccine," Peabody said. "Among those in an 'at risk' group under 65 years of age, uptake is just under 50 percent and around 40 percent of pregnant women and healthcare workers have accepted the offer of vaccination this season."

Peabody said that vaccination was the most important method of preventing flu transmission and complications.

"Vaccination against flu is still the most effective way of preventing the virus in people who are in an 'at risk' group, as they are more vulnerable to developing complications from flu," Peabody said. "This includes people with underlying conditions such as heart problems, diabetes, lung, liver or renal diseases and those with weakened immune systems, as well as older people and pregnant women."

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat and aching muscles and joints. Healthy people with the flu should stay at home, drink plenty of fluids, take pain relievers and rest.

"Although unpleasant, flu is a self-limiting illness and if you have flu it is best to stay at home until you are well," Peabody said. "If people in at risk groups develop symptoms consistent with flu, or if anyone's symptoms persist or become more severe, we advise they seek medical advice."