‘Unusually high’ spike in summer flu sparks vax reminder

Feb 19, 2019News

This content is independently produced by Australian Doctor Group

The national flu reporting rate is almost three times higher than the average for this time of year, prompting infectious disease experts to issue an alert. Nationwide, more than 7000 cases of laboratory-confirmed cases have been reported to health authorities so far this year. And 2196 influenza cases have been confirmed across NSW in the past five weeks alone, according to Dr Vicky Sheppeard, the director of Communicable Diseases for NSW Health. “Nearly every state and territory is seeing unusually high levels of flu activity,” she says, noting that NSW’s notification rate has doubled compared with January last year. While it’s not unusual to see a spike in influenza as travellers return from holidaying in the northern hemisphere winter, the uptick is a “timely warning” for pregnant women to get a free flu shot, she adds. “Pregnant women in their final trimester who are due to give birth before April should get along to their GP or their trained pharmacist,” Dr Sheppeard says. “Thankfully, once home in summer temperatures, influenza doesn’t tend to spread as easily from person to person.” Last winter, Australia experienced the mildest flu season in five years, following the worst on record in 2017 when there were more than a quarter of a million cases reported across the country. Influenza A continues to be a dominant strain seen this summer, Dr Sheppeard says, noting a small number of outbreaks in aged-care homes in NSW.