738 flu patients in critical care
The Government has relaunched its national flu prevention campaign in an attempt to quell the rising number of people being diagnosed with the potentially killer illness.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley ordered the reinstatement after it was confirmed that the number of people in critical care with confirmed or suspected flu in England has risen to 738.
Statistics released by the Department of Health (DH) last Friday showed that 460 people were receiving intensive treatment for flu. However, according to the latest figures there are now 738 patients receiving the same level of care - including 42 youngsters under five.
Government advisers from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are continuing to urge the vulnerable to be vaccinated against the virus.
The advice comes as figures revealed the winter's growing death toll - with 39 people dying from the flu since October. The Health Protection Agency confirmed 12 more flu deaths this week, prompting today's relaunch of the Catch it, Bin it, Kill it campaign, which advises people to catch their sneezes and coughs and wash their hands.
The moves comes after Mr Lansley defended the Government's initial decision not to run the campaign earlier this week.
Labour accused Mr Lansley of a u-turn after the decision to reinstate the campaign was announced.
For months the JCVI has been issuing advice that those in "at risk" groups - suffering from conditions such as chronic respiratory, heart, kidney or liver disease - should get the jab. Critics complained that a wider vaccination policy was not implemented but the JCVI stood by its advice.
Professor Andrew Hall said of the deaths: "JCVI noted that a large proportion of those individuals with severe disease are in recognised risk groups for influenza but unfortunately were not vaccinated. It strongly reiterated its previous advice that all individuals in risk groups should be vaccinated as soon as possible, particularly those aged less than 65 years."
The committee also said it did not believe healthy children under five should be given the flu vaccine.