Surge in influenza cases in Western health district with 1300 confirmed cases

FLU INCREASE: The nation-wide surge in flu cases has also been seen across the Western NSW Local Health District. FILE PHOTO
FLU INCREASE: The nation-wide surge in flu cases has also been seen across the Western NSW Local Health District. FILE PHOTO

More than 1000 extra influenza cases have been confirmed in the Western NSW Local Health District in September compared with September last year.

A Western NSW Local Health District spokeswoman said there were 1300 notifications of laboratory-confirmed influenza across the health district last month, compared with 297 notifications in September 2016.

“Across Australia there has been a marked increase in influenza notifications in 2017 compared to previous years due to an increasing use of more sensitive tests in the community and in hospitals,” she said.

“The predominant circulating strain this year has been influenza A (H3N2), against which the vaccine is known to be less effective, and is also known to be more likely to infect the elderly.

“Influenza B has also circulated at quite a high rate across NSW.

“The influenza A virus had shifted from the vaccine strain, resulting in a change in recommendations for the vaccine manufacture for 2018.”

The spokeswoman said up to one in five people in NSW get influenza each year and although not all cases of death due to influenza are recognised as such, it is estimated that between 800 and 1000 people die from flu-related illnesses.

Death data for the western district is not yet available.

To reduce the chance of contracting the flu and preventing its spread, the spokeswoman said people should cover their face when coughing or sneezing, dispose of used tissues and wash hands thoroughly. 

When visiting someone in hospital or residential aged care, always use the hand sanitiser provided and if sick, reschedule the visit.

She also recommended people have a yearly flu vaccination, ideally before the start of winter, and said anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms should see their doctor, or talk to their pharmacist.

“If a person is experiencing more serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or a sustained high temperature, they should go to their hospital emergency department,” she said.

Australia runs out of Tamiflu

STOCKS of the potentially life-saving drug Tamiflu have reportedly run dry in the wake of one of the worst flu seasons Australia has recorded in recent years.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has included the drug on its list of unavailable medicines, with no confirmation on when new stock will arrive in Australia.

National Custom Compounding head pharmacist Matthew Bellgrove said it is rare for a medicine like Tamiflu to become unavailable, but it has been known to happen during severe flu outbreaks.

“The number of people struck down with the flu this year has been staggering,” Mr Bellgrove said.

“The manufacturer of Tamiflu simply can’t keep up with demand.”

The Department of Health Supply website has an expected supply date of October 12.

Flu symptoms:

  • Rapid onset of fever.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Fatigue.
  • Sneezing.
  • Running nose.
  • Sore throat.
  • Cough.