14 May Flu cases in Australia three times higher than previous year – Are you vaccinated?
Health experts are warning Australia is on track for a killer flu season, with numbers showing three times as many people have been diagnosed with the virus so far this year, compared to the same period in previous years.
In March, more than 10,000 people were diagnosed with the flu. In March 2018, that number was 3,173.
Chair of the Immunisation Coalition, Professor Robert Booy, said those affected were mainly in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. At the end of the first week in April, we were nearly halfway to our 2018 annual total.
Cases by state:
- New South Wales: 7,595 cases
- Queensland: 7,289 cases
- Victoria: 4,627 cases
- South Australia: 4,397 cases
- Western Australia: 1,498 cases
- Tasmania: 322 cases
- Northern Territory: 296 cases
- Australian Capital Territory: 203 cases
In 2018, Australia had a pretty quiet flu season and that means that community immunity wasn’t built up to protect against this year’s virus.
“It means many more people will be prone to the flu this year and susceptible to getting it,” Professor Booy said.
There was also a long flu season in the Northern Hemisphere earlier in the year, up until about March.
“Many Australians went to the US for holidays earlier in the year and brought the flu back, and in February, school goes back and kids mix and spread the flu,” Professor Booy said.
When to get the vaccine?
The earlier the better.
Experts said early April is a good time to get a vaccine as it takes two weeks for your immunity to develop.
“With the flu [rates] three times as high this year as last year, we can stop transmission now if people get vaccinated,” Professor Booy said.
“Otherwise the numbers could rise even more.”
Flu season in Australia usually runs from June to September, peaking in August.
Chief Medical Officer for the Federal Government, Professor Brendan Murphy, recommends vaccinating from mid-April in order to develop immunity before rates of influenza increase.
Some Australians can get a free vaccination. Who’s eligible?
Many Australians can get vaccinated against the flu for free thanks to the National Immunisation Program (NIP).
This year, the Government has secured more than 6 million doses of the vaccine to help protect those most at risk of getting sick.
For the first time, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months or older will be eligible for a free flu vaccination.
Previously, only Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged six months to five years, or older than 15, were eligible.
Other Australians who are entitled to a free flu vaccination include:
- Adults aged 65 and over
- Adults and children (aged six months and over) with certain medical conditions
- Pregnant women