Rise in 'excess deaths' for elderly last winter 'likely due to flu'

Deaths during the winter are about a fifth higher than in summer

Deaths during the winter are about a fifth higher than in summer

A pedestrian walks on the snow-covered street in southern London, Britain, Dec. 2, 2010.

Respiratory diseases, including flu, claimed thousands of lives of elderly people last winter as "excess winter deaths" reached the second highest level in eight years, new figures show.

There were more than 34,000 "excess deaths" across England and Wales over the last winter period, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

On Jan. 9, 2017 alone, nearly 2,000 in England and Wales died.

It is the second highest number of excess winter deaths since 2008/09 when there were 36,450 additional deaths observed over the winter period.

Jodie Withers, a health analyst at the ONS, said: "The increase is likely due to the predominant strain of flu prevalent during the 2016-17 winter, which had greater impact on the elderly than the young". That compares with the August summer holiday season when just over 1,200 people died each day.

Nearly a third of people who are eligible for the vaccination still do not have it.

The figures also show that all of the English regions observed significant increases in the excess winter mortality index between winter periods of 2016 and 2017.

The ONS said that of the estimated 34,300 excess winter deaths in the winter of 2016/17, 57.6% of these were among women. The high figure for last winter was up from 24,580 in 2015-16, probably because of a flu strain that hit the elderly.

Now thousands of elderly and vulnerable people in Britain are being given flu vaccines to help protect them during the coming colder months.