As Canberrans brace for the second month of winter, ACT Health has revealed that there have been over 1300 reports of flu cases in the nation’s capital, 1187 more cases than this time last year.
According to ACT Health’s latest report, there have been 1347 reported cases of influenza from the beginning of the year to 30 June, with 390 (29 per cent) flu cases reported in the past fortnight.
In comparison, there were 160 notifications of influenza reported to ACT Health during the same time period in 2018 but an ACT Health spokesperson said that does not mean this flu season is more severe.
The spokesperson admitted the flu season has started stronger than previous years but said it is impossible to say if the numbers of flu cases will decline or continue to remain at an increased level.
“This year’s flu season is different to recent years, as the increase in activity has started much earlier in the year but that’s not an indication of severity,” the spokesperson told Region Media.
“The report shows the seasonal increase in influenza notifications is following the same trend as in previous years; it has just started earlier in the year.
“It is interesting in the ACT and nationally, influenza activity is higher for this time of year compared to previous years. It is still too early to tell how severe the season will turn out to be but the trend in notifications, while starting earlier this year, is similar to previous years.”
Despite the brutal start to the season, ACT Health said that fewer than five Canberrans had died from the flu this year.
The spokesperson did not confirm the exact number of deaths resulting from the flu this year in Canberra, citing privacy reasons, but said that none of the flu-related deaths this year had been children.
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Despite the spike in flu cases, ACT Health does not believe fewer people are taking their flu shots, stating more government-funded influenza vaccines have been distributed to immunisation providers in 2019 than in previous years.
When Region Media asked its readers whether they go to work regardless if they are feeling unwell, 41 per cent of respondents said they struggle through their symptoms so they don’t fall behind in work. The ACT Health spokesperson reminded Canberrans showing flu symptoms to stay home and recuperate.
“Unfortunately people do feel pressured in some cases to go to work and it’s quite understandable because often the thought of managing a few days off is quite daunting,” the spokesperson said. “However, the longer term benefits of staying at home to rest and recuperate far outweigh the impact of infecting others in the workplace.
“We would advise people who are not feeling well to check in with their GP or go to a walk-in centre to seek advice about whether going to work is a good idea or not.
“Our standard and consistent advice to the community is to get vaccinated for illnesses like influenza.
“Equally important though, particularly for children at childcare centres and schools and those at work is, when sick, it’s best to stay home, rest, recuperate and stay away from others to minimise the spread of respiratory conditions like the flu.”