Aussies urged to get flu vaccination as influenza B cases continue to rise

Aussies are being warned not to be complacent with a lingering flu season, as latest health data reveals a spike in patients contracting influenza B.

Despite the warmer days, Dr Jane Wehipeihana, of Medical on Robina, said people needed to continue practising proper hygiene by washing hands and limiting contact if they are sick as the flu season continues.

The Gold Coast-based GP has reviewed data obtained by Medical on Robina from a local pathology provider and found a huge increase in positive results for influenza B across Queensland.

The data revealed there were more than 400 influenza B cases confirmed by blood test last month, and just two positive cases for August 2022.

Dr Wehipeihana said the huge spike was an unusual start to Spring.

“It’s slightly unusual, we do see odd peaks now and then, though compared to last year it’s significant,” Dr Wehipeihana said.

“The lab reports for august last year at one of our local had 29,000 swabs and only two were positive.

“This year (in August) there were close to 5,000 swabs but 461 cases were positive, so less swabs but more cases.”

While Dr Wehipeihana is yet to see the September data, she said there had been similar results for July and June, with June recording 1100 positive cases detected at the local pathology provider.

Dr Wehipeihana said she’s seen an increase in patients of recent weeks presenting with presenting with influenza B and cold symptoms, including coughs, colds, shivers, fevers and vertigo.

Gold Coast mother of two, Alysia Van Vliet has recently recovered from Influenza B, which infected her whole family for a few weeks.

“It was really dreadful, we had one of (the kids) go down and just had the body aches, temperatures and then it hung around for a few days then went to the rest of us,” Ms Van Vliet said.

“For myself, I haven’t been as sick as what I was this in years.

“It was very difficult, probably for a few days, my daughter and I were bed bound and just sleeping all day and barely eating.”

Ms Van Vliet said not only were the health issues concerning but the financial stress experienced in their household also was taking a toll.

“(The kids) each had a week off school and we tried to preserver but we work for ourselves which is difficult as we don‘t get sick days.

“We were just playing tag team before the two of us went down (with the flu).”

Ms Van Vliet said while her family are “generally extremely healthy people”, she urged people to prioritise trying to avoid the virus.

“If someone in the family does get the flu do your best your eye on things, it‘s highly contagious and it’s just managing that,” she said.

“We just kept our space and it still got us.

Dr Wehipeihana encouraged people to get the flu vaccination, even if it’s now no longer free for most people.

“Each year we do see one strain of influenza be more prevalent than last year, that’s why we change the flu vaccination mix every year,” she said.

“It’s quite common if there’s a family of four of five, three or four of them will have influenza, and … it’s kind of this snowballing effect in the households.

“Prevention is key.”

Queensland Health stated 21,457 people have been diagnosed with influenza since 1 July, 2023 across the state, including 121 infants under six months.

More than 141,000 vaccination doses have been given in Queensland from 17 July, to the latest update as of August 29, with 30 of Queenslanders have been vaccinated against influenza.

Victoria Health recorded 41,657 influenza cases in 2023 at the time of publication.

In New South Wales, there’s been 1601 influenza cases in the week ending on September 16.

Meanwhile, in South Australia 15,462 notifications of influenza reported to the Communicable Disease Control Branch, compared to 11,293 cases reported for the same period last year.

Dr Wehipeihana said flu season is “not over yet”, and people should also remember Covid is also rampant within the community.

“I haven’t got the September numbers yet but we do see it start to drop off and then we do occasionally do see a peak in October or November,” she said.

“Covid is still around and people are still getting Covid every week, some people are still dying every week.

“It’s still very much in the community.”

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