Spike in number of flu cases in WA at start of 2018

The flu vaccination being administered. Picture: Stock image
The flu vaccination being administered. Picture: Stock image

THE number of flu cases in WA for the first 10 weeks of this year was more than double last summer and Perth’s milder weather could be to blame.

Statistics recorded 669 flu cases for the start of 2018, compared with 311 cases for the same 10 week period last year and 403 cases the year prior.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said influenza notifications were fluctuating around the seasonal threshold level but somewhat above levels experienced during recent inter-seasonal periods.

“The higher number of influenza notifications so far this year compared to previous years may simply reflect increased access to laboratory testing,” she said.

“Alternatively, influenza tends to circulate more widely when temperatures are cooler and Perth has just experienced its mildest summer since the turn of the century.

“It is important to note, however, that the rate of GP consultations for influenza-like illness and viral respiratory illnesses seen at Emergency Departments are not substantially elevated, indicating that influenza is not widespread in the community.”

The nation is now preparing for its winter flu season, with vaccination options before the Therapeutic Goods Administration for approval.

“While it is not possible to predict with certainty the severity of an upcoming influenza season, experience from the eastern states last year and recent developments in northern hemisphere underscore the need to be optimally prepared in WA this winter,” the spokeswoman said.

“Some strains of the influenza virus which circulated in the US and UK over the past few months have caused substantial illness and death, particularly among the elderly.

“In response, for the first time ever, the Australian government will be providing two new influenza vaccines in 2018.

“These new vaccines have been specifically formulated to better protect persons aged 65 years and older.

“The Department of Health is also working closely with the residential care facilities and hospitals to ensure that we achieve high vaccination coverage among residents, patients and staff.”

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