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Death rate a third higher than normal

The death rate in England and Wales is around a third higher than normal for this time of year, Office of National Statistics figures show.

Some 28,800 deaths were registered in the fortnight ending 23 January, 32% higher than the average for that period over the last five years (21,859).

The ONS suggested that the flu virus and the cold snap could be to blame for the increased death rate.

Separate analysis by Public Health England (PHE) found that deaths among people aged over 65 have been higher than expected for six weeks, even taking the time of year into account.

The death rate has risen by 3,700 people a week since early December. Of that more than 3,000 are accounted for by over-75s.

PHE statistics also show that both GPs and hospitals are spending more time dealing with flu patients than they did last year, despite a similar vaccination rate.

One of the current prevalent flu strains, the H3N2 sub-type, takes a particular strain on elderly people.

Professor John Newton, chief knowledge officer at Public Health England, told the BBC that this year’s flu vaccine was the right type but that there might have been a mutation, meaning that the vaccine might not be as well matched to the virus at the end of the flu season as it was at the beginning.

An explanation that senior civil servants in the Department of Health have suggested to the BBC is that the death rate may also be higher because of last year's mild winter. An unusually large number of frail people may have survived last year, but are succumbing to the flu and cold this year.

Prof Newton also said that there was little evidence to suggest that the recent A&E crisis and problems in social care has contributed to the higher death rate.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email


Bobbie   14/02/2015 at 15:39

Perhaps this is something to do with the "babyboomers" born in the mid-1940s reaching the end of their "guarantee" of 70 years?

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