Latest figures from Public Health England indicate that influenza is now circulating in the community.
Increases have been seen in both children and adults across a range of indicators, including GP consultations.
PHE’s latest national flu report said 45 new acute respiratory outbreaks had been reported over the last seven days – 25 in schools and 15 in care homes.
“We are starting to see increases in flu activity in both children and adults, indicating the start of this year’s flu season”
In addition, PHE said weekly GP consultations for flu-like illnesses had risen in England and Wales – though they remain low in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Although flu is starting to circulate, flu levels currently remain relatively low, it said.
Dr Richard Pebody, head of seasonal flu surveillance at PHE, said: “We are starting to see increases in flu activity in both children and adults, indicating the start of this year’s flu season.”
The chief medical officer for England this week issued an alert to GPs, allowing the use of antiviral drugs for patients at higher risk of developing complications.
CMO Professor Dame Sally Davies also called on people in at-risk groups, including those with long-term conditions, older people and pregnant women, to get vaccinated against flu.
The latest vaccine uptake figures show a mixed picture, with 70.6% of people aged 65 and over vaccinated. However, only 47.1% in those aged under 65 with a health condition have been vaccinated and 41.6% of pregnant women.
In addition, 34.8% of all two-year-olds, 37.3% of all thee-year-olds and 29.3% of all four-year-olds have been vaccinated with the nasal spray vaccine.
Dr Pebody said: “The best advice for treating flu in healthy people is to stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and take pain relievers such as paracetamol.”