MORE people have been admitted to the region’s hospitals due to flu in recent weeks.
Latest figures show a rise in the number of people requiring critical care for the virus.
But one leading doctor has said that only a small number of those affected have become seriously ill.
Dr Tricia Cresswell, deputy medical director at NHS North East, said: “We appreciate people are worried about swine flu, but the reality is only an extremely small number of people become seriously ill after catching it.
“Most people who get flu make a full recovery without any need for treatment.
“I am in no way minimising the distress caused to patients who become seriously ill and their loved ones, but it is important that we keep things in perspective.”
Critical care capacity in the north east is being actively managed on a day-to-day basis.
Additional capacity is in place to care for flu patients and all other patients urgently requiring critical care, while a small number of non-urgent operations have been postponed.
Dr Cresswell urged those at risk from complications to get the flu jab, even though there are problems with the supply of vaccine.
She added: “We are encouraging pregnant women and people aged under 65 years with underlying conditions to get the free jab by contacting their GP.
“We are aware of supply issues in some areas. We are working with primary care trusts, GPs and pharmacies to ensure available supplies of vaccine are moved to where they are needed.
“And we would urge the ‘worried well’ – those who are not at risk – not to contact their GP or pharmacy as there are others who need the vaccine more than they do.
“Pregnant women and those with chronic illness such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma and certain other conditions are at greater risk of more serious ill health if they catch flu.”
More than 300,000 people in the region aged under 65 are in the ‘at risk’ groups for developing serious complications from flu and are eligible for the free jab.