This compares to an average of about five positive notifications of the nasty virus each week in the region and brings the year’s total to 63.
The spike comes amid four suspected influenza deaths at Mercy Place aged care facility at Westcourt, where up to 60 others, including staff, have fallen ill since February 14.
Cairns public health unit director Dr Richard Gair said the rate of flu notifications in the Far North had increased in the past two weeks, and that it was normal to see an upsurge about this time of year.
He said the flu vaccine, which is expected to cover four strains when released in April, was the single most effective way to prevent infection.
“The vaccination has been shown to reduce illness, hospitalisation and death, especially within certain high-risk groups, such as people over 65 years of age, pregnant women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and those over six months of age with medical conditions that place them at risk,” he said.
“While healthy adults usually recover quite well, influenza infection can lead to other medical complications such as pneumonia.”
The flu also creates a greater chance of serious problems for unborn babies, possibly leading to premature labour.
FNQDocs CEO Peter Cook said “flu season” was not confined to the winter months.
“It seems to be a little earlier but with the climatic changes, and it’s a dry time of year, people’s resistance gets broken down a bit,” he said.
“It may even be that a carrier has come here.”
Dr Gair said influenza was present in communities year-round, highlighting the need for good hygiene.
“Staying home from work or social settings if you are feeling unwell is the best way to avoid spreading flu,” he said.