If you’re yet to get your flu shot, now’s the time, federal Health Minister Sussan Ley says.
New statistics showing the number of flu cases is up by over 50 per cent compared to this time last year.
More than 14,000 cases have been reported so far this year, up from 9,258 cases at the same time in 2014, Ms Ley said in a statement on Wednesday.
Australia is moving into the most common time of year for catching the flu.
The federal government’s database says 13,829 of laboratory-confirmed influenza cases had been reported up until June 30, compared to 8,425 confirmed cases for the first six months of last year.
More than 600 cases are confirmed already this month.
State and territory bodies supply the data to the federal government.
SBS has sent the federal government questions about whether the reporting of flu cases varies from year to year or whether the reporting of flu cases has increased.
The flu can also be deadly; a government spokesperson said that there had been 34 influenza-associated deaths already this year.
Head of Clinical Research at the National Centre for Immunisation Research at the Children’s Hospital in Westmead, Professor Robert Booy told SBS people could reduce the risk of flu for themselves and others with a flu shot.
“More than one new influenza strain has come across to the Southern hemisphere and it’s giving Australia real problems,” Professor Booy said.
“It is so important for people to realise that it is not too late to get vaccinated against flu. You can be protected within 10 days of immunisation.
“There are very few and rare side effects from the flu vaccine, but there are major benefits. Probably 20 to 25 per cent of the population will get flu this year, and if you’re an at risk person you could be at very great risk of being hospitalised and dying from the flu.”
The world’s largest search engine tracks flu activity through its Google Flu Trends website. The data is used to estimate numbers of influenza cases.
Certain search terms are good indicators of flu activity, Google says.
The trends are collected for Australia on a weekly basis, and approximate dates were used in this chart, as weeks start and end on different dates depending on the year.