Flu cases on the rise in Victoria with season to peak later this month

 

Flu season will peak in Victoria in late August or early September. Photo: Chepko Danil

Flu season will peak in Victoria in late August or early September. Photo: Chepko Danil

Peak flu season is about to hit in Victoria, as a strain that has knocked down thousands in NSW heads south.

A Department of Health spokesman said there were 434 flu cases across the state last week, compared with 141 the previous week.

But the flu has not hit Victoria as hard as last year, with confirmed cases and hospitalisations down about 50 per cent compared with 2015.

Ian Barr, acting director of the World Health Organisation’s influenza centre at the Doherty Institute, said flu season had started later in Victoria this year.

But while 2015 was a record year for flu, Dr Barr said he expected a “moderate” flu season for 2016.

The Health Department spokesman said confirmed flu cases in Victoria had mostly been the H1N1 strain.

However, a different strain of flu, H3N2, is making thousands of people miserable in New South Wales and Queensland.

Dr Barr said this H3N2 strain may cause the most problems for Victorians in the coming weeks as it affects all age groups, unlike other variations which are more likely to strike children and the elderly.

The influenza vaccine protects against this strain, and Dr Barr said it was not too late to book an appointment with a general practitioner.

“If you’re thinking about getting vaccinated, do it now,” he said.

In New South Wales there have been 2000 confirmed flu cases in the past week, along with 45 flu deaths this year as a result of outbreaks at retirement villages.

The Victorian health department spokesman said there was no contemporary and timely data available on flu deaths in Victoria.

There have been 3536 confirmed flu cases in Victoria this year, compared with 12,913 in New South Wales and 9520 in Queensland, National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System data shows.