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Richard Hannaford reports for BBC News
"Some experts say it will peak next week"
 real 28k

The BBC's Karen Allen
"Doctors predict the current outbreak could last for sometime"
 real 28k

Thursday, 13 January, 2000, 14:49 GMT
Flu 'may have peaked'

Hospitals are having to cope wth more patients than usual

Experts say that the peak in flu cases may have arrived, with the latest figures showing the rate of increase slowing.

Flu nightmare
Statistics published on Thursday by the Royal College of General Practitioners showed 203 people per 100,000 in England visited their GP with flu in the week ending 9 January.

A figure above 200 shows "higher than expected seasonal activity", according to the scale of outbreaks from the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS).

However, this still stops well short of an official epidemic.

A spokesman for the PHLS said: "These latest figures probably represent the peak."

Other figures released earlier this week, showed 197 per 100,000 were suffering in England.

NHS 'coping'

An epidemic is declared when more than 400 people per 100,000 fall victim to a virus.

The official figures are compiled from information from GP practices and do not include pharmacy and NHS Direct advice.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted the flu crisis had meant some patients were not getting the care they need from the NHS.

But he maintained that, despite the health service being under pressure, it was coping with the many thousands of seriously-ill flu casualties.

Conservative leader William Hague accused the government of not being prepared for the flu crisis, and of failing to see that the NHS was not coping with the scale of the outbreak.

Mr Hague told the Commons during Wednesday's Prime Minister's Questions, that the World Health Organisation had named the UK as one of the worst-prepared countries in Europe for flu.

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See also:
12 Jan 00 |  Health
People are suffering, admits Blair
10 Jan 00 |  Health
Flu: An NHS nightmare
11 Jan 00 |  Health
Flu crisis blamed on ministers
11 Jan 00 |  Health
Flu spreads across Europe
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