Why you might not be covered against worst flu in 5 years

One doctor says this year's Coast flu outbreak is the worst he's ever seen.
One doctor says this year's Coast flu outbreak is the worst he's ever seen. Sarah Harvey

THE Sunshine Coast is in the grips of its worst flu season in years - and the strain causing havoc is one your general flu needle wouldn't have covered.

Figures provided by Queensland Health showed there had been 1244 confirmed cases of the flu on the Sunshine Coast this year so far.

In the last week alone, from August 17 to 24, there were 302 new cases.


Nambour physician Dr Wayne Herdy said the figure only included confirmed cases with a swab test - the real number "could easily be ten times higher".

The experienced GP with more than three decades of practice could not remember a flu season this bad.

"There has been a real influx of people presenting with genuine influenza," he said.

"We are not talking a head cold, influenza is a much more significant disease."

Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service Public Health Unit Acting Director, Dr Rosie Muller, explained there were two different types of Influenza B strains circulating, B/Brisbane and B/Phuket.

The general flu vaccine provided protection against B/Phuket and not B/Brisbane.

But in the last few months, the hospital had seen a surge in the number of presentations of B/Brisbane.

"The number of B/Brisbane cases has risen (in the last period) to be about half the total number of cases," Dr Muller said.

As many as 37 patients had been admitted to hospital in the weeks up to August 17.

Dr Muller said children aged between five and 19 were the most affected.

Have you had the flu vaccine this year?

This poll ended on 31 December 2017.

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In the period June 2014 to July 2015 there were 22 presentations of school aged children at the Nambour Emergency Department, with 19 requiring inpatient admission.

This was more than four times the 2013/14 figure were only five required admission, but less than 2012/13 were 27 inpatients with influenza were admitted.

A vaccine for protection against the latest strain is available privately through pharmacies.

But Dr Muller said Queensland Health would "not advise" those who have already had the general flu vaccine to get the extra protection of the additional vaccine.

"It's not harmful, but it's not a Queensland Health recommendation," she said.

She said people who had contracted the virus should stay home for at least five days.

"People need to use good hand hygiene and don't share items like cups," she said.

"Also people must remember to clean surfaces at home regularly, especially frequently touched areas like door handles, cupboards and fridges.

"And it is not too late to get vaccinated."

Dr Herdy said anti-virals taken with the first 48 hours of feeling sick could also help shorten the duration of the illness.


  • 2015 as of Aug 24: 1244
  • 2014: 648
  • 2013: 174
  • 2012: 1048
  • 2011: 585


Topics:  editors picks flu illness influenza sick vaccination

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