Influenza Season Gets an Early Start

Australians are facing an unusually high number of respiratory infections, including flu and RSV, with the added concern of the nation experiencing its first surge in whooping cough cases since the COVID-19 lockdowns.

One puzzling aspect is the earlier onset of the flu season. Traditionally, Australia’s flu season stretches from May to September. However, starting from 2022, there has been a noticeable increase in cases during the summer months.

Flu season 2024 predictions  

According to data from the federal government’s National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System, this year has seen over 28,400 flu notifications, surpassing the numbers seen during the country’s previous record-breaking flu seasons. For instance, in 2017, just 8,300 cases were reported before April out of a total exceeding 250,000 cases for the year. Similarly, in 2019, there were 25,200 cases reported from January to March, preceding an annual total of 300,000 cases.

This year and last year, we’ve witnessed a significant increase in social mixing and travel, particularly to Europe or North America, resulting in more cases of flu being brought back during the earlier months of January, February, and March. Additionally, the absence of flu during 2020 and 2021 meant that many of us lost our natural immunity, making us more susceptible to the disease, especially young children.

Another noteworthy trend is the earlier peaking of flu cases. Historically, we would see peak cases around August, but in 2022 and 2023, this occurred as early as June.

By next year, it is anticipated that the flu season will return to its pre-pandemic pattern, with a start in April or May and a later peak.

Despite the early start, it’s important to note that Australia isn’t necessarily heading towards a catastrophic flu season. According to experts, we can anticipate a “moderate or greater” level of influenza as we transition into the winter months.

Vaccinations are always the key

Key factors influencing the severity of the flu season include the uptake and efficacy of flu shots. Flu viruses are prone to mutation, and the current vaccines target the parts of the virus that are susceptible to mutation. Hence, new vaccines are developed each year to address these changes.

The concern arises from the possibility of complacency regarding the flu, as indicated by lower flu shot uptake last year. In just a few months, the virus can undergo mutations, potentially leading to a more severe flu season.

Experts are particularly concerned about the low rates of flu vaccination among children last year, especially considering how severe the flu can be for infants. It’s crucial for people, especially parents, to understand that influenza is not just a runny nose or a mild illness – it can be fatal.

Who should receive a flu shot this year?   

This year’s flu shots will target two Influenza A strains and two Influenza B strains. 

Anyone over the age of six months can receive a flu shot.

Heathershaw’s Vaccination Clinic is open to all eligible patients. Appointments can be booked conveniently online here.

Opinions or facts expressed within the content have been sourced from various news sources. While every effort has been taken to source them accurately, the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates do not take any responsibility for errors in these sources. Patients should not rely on the facts or opinions in the content to manage their own health, and should seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Further, the opinions or facts in the content do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates. 

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