Shocker flu season could be Gympie's worst ever
ALMOST 400 Gympie region residents have come down with the flu as of August 25 this year as the 2019 season shapes up to be a shocker across the state.
Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service public health physician Dr Rosie Muller confirmed this year's influenza numbers in the Gympie Regional Council area were almost seven times that of the 56 cases reported this time last year, and nearly three times the 177 cases in 2017.
Numbers this year have more than quadrupled the 93 average cases in the region to this point between 2014 and 2018.
The SCHHS, comprising Gympie, Noosa and the Sunshine Coast, had 4062 confirmed cases of influenza reported to Queensland Health this year as at August 25 - compared to 703 last year and 2253 the year before.
The average figure for the combined regions was 1208 cases up to this point between 2014 and 2018.
Gympie's 378 cases come as a new report says confirmed flu cases in Queensland have exceeded 50,000 in what could end up being the worst on record "based on sheer numbers”.
The state's biggest flu year, in terms of laboratory confirmed cases, was in 2017 when 56,592 people were recorded on the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System.
Just 15,697 people were diagnosed with influenza in Queensland last year, the report stated.
But Dr Muller said the issue with comparing numbers to past years was the "early start” to flu season this year.
"It is important to note that the early start to the influenza season this year makes year-to-date comparisons between years less useful,” she said.
"There have been 112 admissions for people with confirmed influenza to (SCHHS) hospitals this year to 27 August. Most (73 per cent) were admitted to Sunshine Coast University Hospital.”
Dr Muller said hospital admissions in Gympie, Nambour and Maleny "are not routinely published” because of small numbers and confidentiality.
She said 14 influenza-associated deaths had been recorded this year for people living in the SCHHS area between January 1 and August 16.
"These figures should be considered an underestimate. Deaths related to influenza are not required to be reported to Queensland Health,” she said.
"If you have not had a vaccine, the 2019 vaccine is available and free from GPs for people at higher risk of severe outcomes, including children aged 6 months to 5 years, people aged 65 years and older, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from 6 months, and people with certain chronic conditions including diabetes and chronic respiratory and cardiac conditions.”
Dr Muller also gave the following advice to protect against influenza:
1. Avoid people who have influenza-like symptoms such as coughing, sneezing and runny nose
2. Stay home if you are sick. It is especially important not to visit people in hospital or aged care facilities or others who may be particularly vulnerable.
3. Wash your hands more often and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
4. Cover your cough with a tissue or your arm.