THE flu viruses which have led to a surge in Scots cases are “no more deadly” than any in recent years, a Scots expert has claimed.

Cases of flu have doubled across the country compared to last year and the country has experienced a greater rate of related deaths than the rest of the UK.

One of the type A strains circulating this year - H3N2 - has been dubbed ‘Aussie flu’ because it is the same strain that is being blamed for the worse outbreak in the country for a decade. Cases have been reported across the UK including Glasgow.

It was first seen in 1968 and appears to cause more severe infections in young children and the elderly.

The Scottish Government said of the 60 H3N2 viruses identified so far, 22 belong to the type associated with the Australian outbreak and do not closely match the current vaccine with 34 closely matching the jab.

Hugh Pennington, a professor of bacteriology, said it was “unclear” why cases of flu had surged in Scotland this winter. A total of 120 patients have been hospitalised in Glasgow, including 98 testing positive for either of the two Type A strains.

He said: “The two A flu strains so far this year are not new. The vaccine is directed against them. 

“B is a bit different. None more deadly than any recent flu strains. 

“H3N2 first appeared in 1968. It is hard to say that it is more virulent as a virus.

“Its notoriety may well depend on it being common, therefore infecting more people in high risk groups.

“It could well be a media outbreak rather than anything out of the ordinary flu-wise.

“We have been spoiled by recent relatively quiet flu years.

“Not everyone who thinks that they have flu has been infected with influenza virus, of course. 

“The great majority of cases never have lab tests done.”

The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday apologised to patients who have faced delays for treatment as a result of winter strain on the health service.

Nicola Sturgeon said NHS Scotland was dealing with ‘’exceptional’’ pressures but was coping despite difficult circumstances

As of the end of last month the flu season had claimed the lives of at least four hospital patients who were admitted to intensive care with the viral infection.

An overall higher than expected mortality rate was also reported December, including among those aged 65 and over.

Professor Pennington said: “The reasons are not at all clear. There is no strong evidence that flu is the main cause.”