Worst flu season in years strikes Hunter

IT’S official – NSW is enduring the worst flu season in recent years, figures released on Wednesday by NSW Health have confirmed.

Across the state there have been 35,727 cases of influenza.  

In the Hunter New England area, 3331 residents have been struck down, the highest number on NSW Health records so far. 

However, that number only represents cases that have been confirmed by a laboratory, the real number is likely to be much higher.

Hunter New England Health’s Dr Craig Dalton said it was shaping up to be a big year for influenza.

“It’s looks to us that this is the biggest influenza year since 2009, which was a pandemic year,” Dr Dalton said. 

And while the current strain was considered seasonal, rather than pandemic, it was “interesting”.

“Based on the relatively higher attack rates compared to 2009,” Dr Dalton said. “It may be some slight change in the virus.”

The strain’s molecular fingerprint will be looked at in laboratories around the world. It will be sequenced and scientists will look for any changes in the genetic make-up of the strain. 

The most common strain this year is A, which is most susceptible to mutations. 

So far, there have been more than 71,256 lab-confirmed cases of the flu across Australia this year. Making it the worst flu season in 15 years nationally.

Children and teenagers, aged 10 to 19, have been among the hardest hit.

Experts say there are four different strains of the virus circulating this year: Influenza A-H1N1, A-H3N2, B-Victoria and B-Yamagata.

Dr Dalton said it was not too late to seek flu vaccination. And the best way to avoid becoming infected was to avoid sick people and regular hand-washing.