It’s been a sick year

If you think 2017 has been a sick year, you’re right – but not in a good way.

There have been more than 166,000 confirmed cases of influenza in Australia for the year to 18 September; more than double the number reported in 2016.  More than 2000 people were admitted to hospital with the flu over the same period and dozens of people have died due to influenza associated illness.

2017 Flu SeasonIf you’re feeling a little under the weather; you’re not alone.

Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy says it has been one of the State’s worst ever flu seasons, with some 13,000 confirmed cases and many more expected in coming weeks.

"The whole health system is working together to expand emergency capacity in one of our busiest ever flu seasons."
-Jill Hennessy 

Ms Hennessy says numbers had gotten so high the Government would pay private hospitals to accept public patients arriving by ambulance to help ease the pressure on public emergency rooms.

She says “experts still cannot confirm if the peak of the flu season has been reached as yet”.

“Our public and private hospitals, and the whole health system is working together to expand emergency capacity in one of our busiest ever flu seasons,” she says. “It’s not too late for the flu jab and we continue to urge Victorians to practice good hand hygiene to assist in controlling the spread of flu.

“Most importantly, if you are unwell with the flu or a cold, avoid visiting loved ones in hospitals or aged care facilities, and stay home and rest if you can.”

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There were 94 deaths from influenza in Victoria’s aged-care facilities in the first nine months of the year and on 15 September, an eight-year-old girl died of flu in Melbourne’s outer-east.

Ms Hennessy says about 800 people in Victoria die each year from influenza, the most of any communicable disease.

Not too late to get the jab

Dr Tony Bartone, Australian Medical Association vice-president, says the flu shot protects most people against four common strains of flu.

Dr Bartone says a small number of people will get the flu despite being vaccinated, either because their immune systems don’t respond to the antibodies in the vaccine or they become infected with a rare strain.

But getting the jab remained the best way to avoid the flu, he says.

“It’s safe, it’s effective and it’s once a year only,” Dr Bartone says. “It usually contains the most likely strains around and even if it doesn’t, just the mere factor of having those flu antibodies seems to mitigate against a serious illness.”

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