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2019 Flu Season: 2nd worst on record

Friday, 28 Feb 2020
2019 Flu Season: 2nd worst on record

The Australian Department of Health’s 2019 Influenza Season summary affirmed what most people already knew: last year we endured very high levels of activity compared to previous seasons1 and those levels were high from earlier in the year – even during the summer months. This culminated in a total of 310,011 laboratory-confirmed flu notifications by the beginning of December1. On a more serious note, by October 6 more than 800 influenza-associated deaths had been officially recorded, the majority of these were due to influenza A (96%, n=782) and the ages ranged from under 12 months of age to 102 years. Where sub-typing information was available, 128 were associated with influenza A (H3N2), 29 with influenza A(H1N1)pdm09, and 30 with influenza B. The median age of deaths notified was 86 years (but ranged from under 12 months of age to 102 years)1.

The flu vaccines used in workplace programs contain antigens for 4 strains of the influenza virus – 2 of Influenza A and 2 of Influenza B2. The WHO convenes a meeting of experts each year to determine the best formulations of the vaccine for the following winter season so they will be most effective in protecting as many people as possible against this potentially serious, or even fatal, illness2.

The Sonic HealthPlus workplace flu program will be in high demand following such an extreme flu season in 2019. Vaccinations for influenza are recommended annually before the flu season starts. Southern Hemisphere peak flu activity can vary from season to season but generally occurs between June and September, however infections can occur all year round, particularly in the tropical areas of Australia, as was the case in 20193. The best protection against the flu is vaccination and most people develop immunity within two weeks of vaccination4. Recent evidence suggests optimal protection occurs in the 3–4 months following vaccination, with experts recommending vaccinations from mid-April /May 2020. Please remember, it is however never too late to be vaccinated3.

You can minimise the risk of flu this winter by avoiding close contact with people who are sick, staying home when you are sick, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or sneezing into the inner elbow, avoid shaking people’s hands and regularly cleaning your hands with soap and water, or using alcohol-based hand sanitisers that contain at least 60% alcohol. You should also avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. These health etiquettes will help reduce your chances of picking up or passing on flu, as well as other viruses and bacteria4.

To find out more about Workplace Flu Vaccinations or to obtain a quote, click here.


References:

  1.  Immunisation Coalition 2020 Flu statistics
    https://www.immunisationcoalition.org.au/news-media/2020-influenza-statistics/
  2. Recommended composition of influenza virus vaccines for use in the 2020 southern hemisphere influenza season, World Health Organization, 27 September 2019
    https://www.who.int/influenza/vaccines/virus/recommendations/201909_recommendation.pdf?ua=1
  3. National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) Influenza vaccines for Australians – frequently asked questions.
    http://www.ncirs.org.au/ncirs-fact-sheets-faqs/influenza-vaccines-australians-faqs
  4. Immunisation Coalition Influenza Activity Surveillance 2019 The Flu – it’s not a cold it’s a killer:
    https://www.immunisationcoalition.org.au/news-media/the-flu-its-not-a-cold-its-a-killer/
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