TWO cases of so-called Aussie flu have been confirmed in Colchester as the region enters the red zone for rising outbreaks.

A further two patients were suspected of having influenza H3N2, a potentially deadly strain of flu which struck Australia last year.

There have already been reported cases across Essex, including in the south and middle of the county.

As the NHS battles against a winter crisis, safeguarding measures are in place to protect staff and patients, particularly for elderly people and those with weakened immune systems for who winter bugs can be fatal.

A spokesperson for Colchester General Hospital trust said: “Any patients with flu would be kept in isolated conditions and staff made to wear surgical masks.

“Once the patient is discharged, the isolation room will be thoroughly cleaned and fogged.

“The advice for people needing to visit the hospital is to clean their hands with bacterial gel before and after visiting a patient, but also not to visit if they themselves have been unwell within the last 48 hours.”

Despite north Essex being on high flu alert, the hospital is operating at a reduced escalation level of two out of four.

Fewer people are attending A&E with 268 people on Monday, which fell to 247 on Tuesday and 120 as of 2.20pm today.

Nine less people were admitted to wards than on January 3, when non-urgent operations were cancelled for UK NHS trusts.

Hospital bosses are also continuing to assess the number of surgeries to be axed “as per elective demand”.

So far, 44 patients have had operations postponed.

The spokesperson added: “No matter how carefully or well we plan, there will always be times when demand for urgent and emergency care is so high that very sadly, we need to postpone or defer routine or planned operations.

“Our commitment is to make sure we give everyone replacement times as quickly as possible.”

The East of England Ambulance Service today announced the trust has been reduced to REAP escalation level three, meaning it faces severe pressure, after ten days at the maximum state of emergency.

This was reviewed on the day paramedics responded to just under 3,200 calls.

Monday proved the busiest day this week with the trust receiving 3,400 emergency calls across Essex.

Kevin Brown, director of service delivery, said: “We would to thank our staff and volunteers for their hard work over what has been a challenging period and also thank the public and partners for their support during the extremely busy period we have just experienced.

“The reduction from extreme to severe should not detract from the severity of the operational pressure and previously the trust operated for a considerable period at REAP three, which is reflective of the significant capacity gap that exists.”

Check how flu is affecting the rest of the UK by clicking here.