The United States isn't the only nation battling a nasty influenza season this year. The virus is also spreading across Europe, with England reportedly seeing a surge in pediatric hospital admissions that doctors speculated could be linked to flu-like illnesses.
"This winter has been much busier than the previous one, and respiratory infections have contributed significantly to admissions," Tim Ubhi, a spokesman for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, told the Daily Mail. He said hospital units have been effectively closing to new patients, and he suspected the flu could be a contributing factor.
BBC News reported last week that the overall death rate in England and Wales tied to the flu season (28,000) was about one-third higher than normal. The cause was unclear, but over the past week, 30 countries in the World Health Organization's European region reported an increase in flu activity.
The cold weather could be driving up numbers, according to the BBC. Children could also be spreading the flu because "they tend to sneeze everywhere and don't use tissues properly or wash their hands," according to the National Health Service.
Although most people who get the flu are sick for less than two weeks, the risk is higher for young and elderly patients. People younger than 5 and older than 65 are among groups that could develop more serious conditions related to the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kids under age 2 are particularly at risk of seeing complications from the flu.
Flu expert John Watson told the Daily Mail that flu levels were generally decreasing in the U.K. but unvaccinated residents should still consider getting the shot. The National Health Service offers free flu vaccines to children, which he said "provides the best overall way to protect yourself and your family from flu, along with good hand hygiene."