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The U.K. Health Protection Agency published a report looking at the wide range of infectious organisms which can cause illnesses at wintertime, such as flu, colds, and bronchitis. The report, titled A Winter's Tale will be presented to the Health Protection Agency's Board.
The report draws on existing data and information, to look at the impact of these winter illnesses on the community at large, on GP practices, on hospitals, and on mortality. Dr Douglas Fleming, director of the Royal College of General Practitioner's (RCGP) Birmingham Research Unit, and a co-author on the report, said, Twenty-four percent of the UK population consults a GP at least once a year because of respiratory problems; the great majority of these problems are caused by infection. The incidence of these respiratory illnesses varies seasonally, and can be unpredictable in timing and magnitude. That is why our national surveillance systems are so important, as they enable organizations such as the Health Protection Agency and the RCGP to monitor the progression of these illnesses and to recommend appropriate ways of dealing with them.
Sir William Stewart, the Health Protection Agency's chairman, said, I recommend this report, which highlights the importance of our national surveillance systems, in keeping us up to date on the current situation regarding winter illnesses. The report also highlights areas where further work is required, such as in the case of acute bronchitis, a disease which has a major impact on public health in the winter, and the extension of existing principles of surveillance to other infectious agents throughout the year.