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Flu cases higher than this time last year

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Meanwhile a Brisbane doctor has broken ranks with colleagues, saying people should get their flu jab now

There have been a total of 10,474 laboratory confirmed notifications of influenza in Australia so far for 2018, according to the Australian Immunisation Coalition.

And according to Queensland Health statistics, there have been 3242 laboratory-confirmed notifications of influenza in the state as of 1 April.

The Immunisation Coalition cites its number for Queensland at a higher 3423.

This is compared to 2961 notifications for the same period last year – which was one of the worst flu seasons on record, with more than 248,125 confirmed notifications of influenza across the country.

The average number of notifications in Queensland from 1 January to 1 April over the previous five years (2013-2017) was 1764.

A similarly higher trend can be seen in NSW, with 3259 notified reports of influenza as of 31 March, compared with 2318 by the same time last year, and 1691 the year before that (2016).

While the number of year-to-date cases of influenza in 2018 is higher than previous years, Queensland Health says there may be several reasons to explain this.

“These include increased influenza awareness among clinicians resulting from the large number of notifications seen last year, increased opportunities for point-of-care testing for influenza, and the fact that the number of influenza tests conducted in public laboratories has almost doubled in the past few years,” says a Queensland Health spokesperson.

Queensland Health says it is working hard to prevent a repeat of last years’ flu season.

“Our message remains the same: get vaccinated every year because it is the best way of protecting yourself against the flu.”

Meanwhile Brisbane doctor Deb Mills from Dr Deb the Travel Doctor has told mainstream media that people should get the flu jab now.

“Basically you can’t tell when the flu is going to hit,” she told The Courier Mail.

“If you wait (to get the vaccine) it’s a bit like Russian roulette.”

Dr Mills said Australia doesn’t know enough about influenza to be “fussy” about vaccination timing.

“You never know when the thing is coming,” she said.

“What if the flu hits in May? I don’t think there’s any major disadvantage in having it now.”

RACGP president Dr Bastien Seidel said: “Typically, flu season affects Australia from June to September, with the peak being August.

“Recent evidence suggests that protection following flu vaccination may begin to wear off after three to four months, so timing of vaccination is critical.”

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon had initially joined with the RACGP, entering the flu debate by criticising pharmacies that were advertising early flu shots.

However he has since toned down his message.

“I think the most important message for me to give to people is the value of the vaccine,” Dr Gannon said this week.

“So rather than get caught up in a debate about whether you have it at your GP or in a pharmacy or whether you have it on April 10 or May 1, the most important message is that it’s safe, it’s effective, it’s important.”

In March, Immunisation Coalition director Robert Booy told the AJP that people at high risk of flu complications should wait until April or May for vaccination, but that the well can be vaccinated during March.

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