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Australia's influenza deaths hit 300, experts say flu season is "moderately bad"



About 300 people have already died of the flu this year, more than double the total in 2018.

But experts believe that the "moderately bad" season of Australia has probably reached its peak.

The influenza season started early this year after a milder season in 2018, resulting in a significantly higher number of influenza cases than is usually seen at this stage.

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Professor Robert Booy, influenza expert, estimates that the influenza season will be moderate and less severe than in 2017, when 1163 people died.

The president of the Immunization Coalition said the early start of this year's influenza season will likely result in a rapid spike, predicted that the number of cases will soon begin to decline.

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"My point of view is that it could be a moderately bad year with an early start, but I can see evidence showing that the peak is reached, that it is capped. and that he will probably start falling much earlier than usual, "he told AAP.

Prof Booy, of the National Center for Immunization Research and Surveillance, said the flu season had often peaked in August and September, but that he thought she already had reaches its maximum.

"Moderate" influenza season

NSW Health's director of communicable diseases, Vicky Sheppeard, also described the flu season as moderate, saying the unprecedented numbers were due to the early start and had been unusually active during the summer.

"The flu is an unpredictable virus, but we hope to be at the top and we will begin to see a reduction in activity in the coming weeks," Dr. Sheppeard told reporters Thursday in Sydney.

Since the beginning of the year, 135,952 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza have been reported in Australia, well above the average of 17,349 at the same stage in the previous five years, according to Ministry data. Federal Office of Health.

The dead have doubled

Up to now, 298 influenza-associated deaths have been reported to the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System, although this only applies to laboratory-confirmed cases.

There were 58,847 confirmed influenza cases and 125 deaths in Australia in 2018.

The 2017 influenza season, with 250,000 laboratory-confirmed cases and 1163 deaths, was the worst since the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

The lab numbers do not show the full extent of the flu because most people are not tested.

Mutant strains

According to Professor Booy, modeling estimated that the average number of deaths per season was in the range of 3,000 to 4,000, and that the Immunization Coalition expected this year would be no different.

Professor Booy said that a mutation of the virus was a natural occurrence and that the World Health Organization's influenza center in Melbourne reported no mutations that would have meant that the vaccine did not occur. had not worked.

Dr. Sheppeard said that the WHO had noted that a minority of one of the four influenza strains in circulation carried a mutation that made it a little different from the vaccine, but the vaccine remained highly effective against most strains in circulation.

"As good as expected"

She added that the vaccine seemed to be working as well as expected, preventing about half of the potential cases of influenza and reducing its severity for those affected.

"Unfortunately, especially in people 65 years and older, despite vaccination, we have deaths every year."

Dr. Sheppeard added that the WHO had also indicated that there was no antiviral resistance to circulating influenza strains.

Alarming numbers

Reported laboratory-confirmed influenza cases and deaths associated up to now in 2019

  • 135,952 cases at national level
  • 298 deaths

Source: Federal Ministry of Health

LATEST DATA AVAILABLE STATE PER STATE **

  • SA – 19,964 cases, 82 deaths
  • NSW – about 43,000 cases, 70 deaths
  • VIC – 25,969 cases, 50 deaths
  • WA – 17,640 cases, 48 ​​deaths
  • QLD – 23,947 cases, 38 deaths
  • ACT – 1595 cases, fewer than 5 deaths
  • NT – 1079 cases, 4 deaths
  • TAS – 1390 cases, 1 death

Jurisdictions update their data at different times.


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