Tower Hamlets the highest rate of reported flu symptoms in the country this week, statistics from the Health Protection Agency have shown.
For every 100,000 people in the borough, 26.6 are reporting flu or flu-like symptoms, compared to 20.4 in Greenwich, a London average of 9.7, and only 12.3 in northerly South Tyneside.
Dr Somen Banerjee, co-director of public health for the borough, told EastLondonLines: “In places like Tower Hamlets, because it’s an area of high overcrowding, the flu virus tends to spread more quickly than elsewhere.”
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust, which manages hospitals in central London serving the boroughs, will be equipped with special flu facilities, Health Secretary Andrew Landsley announced today.
Hospitals will provide extracorporeal membrane oxygenation treatment in case of severe outbreaks. The treatment pumps oxygen into blood from outside the body when the lungs fail severely.
Free jabs for seasonal flu, which kills around 8,000 people each year in England and Wales, are open to over-65s, pregnant women, and anyone with a long term condition. People living in residential or nursing homes, frontline care workers and carers for the old and disabled are also eligible.
Banerjee said it was “particularly important” that these vulnerable groups get immunised, and urged residents to get their jabs if they fell within a risk group. Such individuals should contact their GP immediately.
Those with flu symptoms are advised to stay home, keep warm, drink plenty and rest well.