In a recent upsurge, the number of confirmed cases of flu-like illnesses has more than doubled in the past week in England and Wales with school kids aged five to 14 years bearing the brunt of the infection.
In what ca be termed as perhaps the worst outbreak in five years, the infection rate is nearly twice the level witnessed last year with around nine million Britons struck by flu symptoms.
significant hike in confirmed cases of flu
Latest figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) reveal that confirmed cases of flu surged from 32.8 per 100,000 to 87.1 per 100,000 in the week to December 19.
Although cases of common cold and bronchitis and influenza B are on the rise across the country swine flu is still the most dominant strain of flu circulating this winter.
Bob Winter, of the Intensive Care Society said: "We are certainly seeing more patients in intensive care this year compared with last year. They have a mixture of flu, mainly H1N1 and are aged 16 to 65.
"It seems to be behaving differently from last year. The ones that are getting it seem to be getting it more seriously.
"Last year most people got mildly ill. This year we have lots of people in intensive care when it doesn’t seem to be that high in the community.
"Some are ordinary healthy people – it seems to be hitting pregnant women, the obese and those with underlying conditions such as asthma.
"We’re only two weeks into it and we’re already seeing lots of patients. It has got the potential to get worse. Rates have increased quite rapidly over the past two weeks."
The health department is urging at-risk groups, which include those over 65s, pregnant women, people and children with chronic health problems as well as health and social care staff to get flu shots during this period when the weather changes.
Statistics released by the Department of Health
Statistics by the Department of Health (DOH) show that today 460 people are undergoing intensive treatment across Britain while only 182 were receiving critical care for flu on 15 December.
Of the 460 patients receiving critical care for flu, 366 were in the age bracket of 16 and 64, while 51 were 65 years and above and 26 were under five.
In addition, 17 more aged between five and 15 were suffering from severe flu.
Moreover, it has emerged that 10 more died in the last week after contracting flu taking the total number of fatalities to 27 in UK so far this winter.
Of those who died, 24 succumbed to swine flu and three lost their lives to influenza flu type B, while nine of the deaths were of children under the age of 18.
Thirteen of those who died were belonged to the high risk category and only one of the 27 people who died had received the flu shot this season.
The health department is urging at-risk groups, which include those over 65s, pregnant women, people and children with chronic health problems as well as health and social care staff to get flu shots immediately.
Vaccination rates currently stand at very low numbers, with less than half of those under the age of 65, pregnant women, and people with serious long-term health problems having been inoculated.
Only, 43 percent in the high risk category under the age of 65 been inoculated so far and 68.5 percent of those over 65 having received the jab.
Professor David Salisbury, Director of Immunisation at the Department of Health stated: "These figures demonstrate that the effects of flu are not to be underestimated. It is not the same as getting a cold and can seriously affect your health.”