April flu cases six times higher than worst April on record

27 May 2019

The ongoing unseasonably high levels of influenza have caused considerable discussion of influenza vaccination in the media, which continued this week following the announcement of the death of three children in Victoria from influenza and over 51,000 cases of influenza nationwide. So far in 2019, 119 influenza associated deaths have been notified to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS).

Graph of influenza confirmations in Australia from 1 January 2014 to 19 May 2019









 Notifications of laboratory confirmed influenza, Australia, 1 January 2014 to 19 May 2019, by month and week of diagnosis. Source: Australian Influenza Surveillance Report, 6 to 19 May 2019.

The NSW Influenza Surveillance Weekly Report for week ending May 19 revealed 1,577 confirmed flu cases. NSW Health have revised the threshold that determines the official start of the flu season, as the rate of patients testing positive for influenza climbed to 13.4 per cent, more than double the 5 per cent threshold in previous years.

The most important factor associated with uptake of influenza vaccination is a healthcare provider recommendation. Health practitioners are urged to remind all patients that the flu vaccines are the best available means for protecting themselves against the flu. We must act now to build immunity in the community.

Flu viruses are continually mutating in nature, so any immunity acquired from a previous infection or vaccine may provide little protection against the viruses that will circulate in the next season.

Those eligible for free vaccines under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) include:

  • people aged 65 years and over
  • pregnant women
  • Aboriginal people aged 6 months and over
  • people 6 months and over with medical conditions pre-disposing them to severe influenza

In addition to the above, those eligible for free vaccines under the NSW Government Program include:

  • health care workers in NSW Health facilities
  • all children from 6 months to under 5 years of age not covered under the NIP

A guide to the flu shot for consumers has been developed by NPS Medicinewise.

Further information