The dreaded influenza has not taken a summer break, with the number of cases in the Grampians more than triple the number usually recorded at this time of year.
In the Grampians health district there have been 49 confirmed cases of influenza for the period from January 1 to February 6, compared to 16 for last year and 15 for 2017.
There were seven confirmed cases in the past week.
The story is similar across Victoria, with 1623 cases of influenza reported to the Department of Health since January 1 compared to 734 for the same time last year.
“In Victoria, influenza (flu) notifications peaked in September last year and influenza activity continued in the following months with a slight increase in notifications in November-December,” said acting Chief Health Officer Dr Brett Sutton.
“Case numbers in the first few weeks of January 2019 have been higher than we typically see for this time of the year.”
Summer influenza activity is not uncommon, and other Australian states have also reported an increase in notifications over the past few months with Queensland recording the biggest jump in cases and NSW recording 2196 confirmed cases – twice as many as usual.
"In NSW, our rate has doubled from notifications in January last year but thankfully once home in summer temperatures, influenza doesn't tend to spread as easily from person to person," said Dr Vicky Sheppeard.
During 2018 there were 11,489 confirmed cases of influenza in Victoria, less than a quarter of the 2017 total of 48,200 which occurred during the worst flu season since 2009.
“Factors influencing this elevated influenza activity may include increased testing and awareness following the extremely significant flu year in 2017, as well as increased overseas influenza activity and travellers returning from holiday breaks overseas,” Dr Sutton said.
According to the Influenza Specialist Group, about 3500 deaths, 18,000 hospitalisations and 300,000 doctors visits occur as a result of influenza every year.
Older people, pregnant women and those with pre-existing medical conditions such as heart disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes and impaired immunity are at the highest risk of flu complications.
Dr Sutton said flu vaccine was highly recommended for people in these high risk groups, and recommended for all people from six months of age to avoid the disease or minimise side effects.
“In addition to vaccination, there are a number of other precautions people can take to prevent getting and spreading the flu, such as coughing or sneezing into your elbow and washing your hands regularly, especially after sneezing,” he said.
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