BRITAIN could be struck by an early flu outbreak because cases are already rising in other countries, a top expert has warned.
Dr John McCauley says spiralling cases in Croatia, India and China could indicate an earlier wave of infections in the UK this year.
Although the UK’ flu season usually lasts from September until March, the NHS only usually starts to feel the pressure by January.
But Dr McCauley – a prominent flu scientist based at the Francis Crick Institute – says Brits may need to brace for cases to rocket early this flu season due to a surge in infections abroad.
He told MailOnline: “It’s over the next few weeks that we will be able to tell if what we are seeing now is sustained. If it is, we might expect an early flu season.’
“There is flu being picked up in some places, but whether it is spreading in some of these (eg Norway and the Netherlands) is not known for certain.
“On the other hand, Croatia has had flu activity over the last four weeks. I don’t know if it will be sustained over the coming weeks.
“There has been flu in China from January — but at somewhat lower levels than two years ago.
“India has had flu as well — but it is difficult to know how widespread it is in such a large country.”
It comes after a top medic warned Brits will face a deadly double act of flu and Covid this winter amid waning immunity.
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, says those who catch both illnesses at the same time are twice as likely to die than patients with coronavirus alone.
Speaking to Trevor Phillips on Sky, Dr Harries said the public “should be worried about the flu each winter”.
“On average over the past five years, around 11,000 people have died [per year]with flu-related conditions,” she said.
“The important thing about this winter is that we’re likely to see flu, for the first time in any real numbers, co-circulating with Covid.
“The risks of both together still remain.
“The early evidence suggests you’re twice as likely to die from the two together than just Covid alone.”
Meanwhile, health chiefs have warned deaths from flu could reach 60,000 this winter after lockdowns and social distancing saw immunity plummet.
It is thought the UK could see the worst fatality rate in 50 years as Brits’ ability to fight the bug has been weakened after orders to stay at home.
Deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said: “Not many people got flu last year because of Covid restrictions, so there isn’t as much… Brinkwire Brief News.