Flu season spreads through Southeastern Australia

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Southeastern Australia is experiencing a rise in influenza cases this year, with twice as many confirmed infections as the same time last year.

According to the National Center for Immunization Research and Surveillance, Australia averages more than 4,000 hospitalizations from influenza and 85 deaths each year. Vaccination may prevent infection or reduce the severity of symptoms of influenza.

“When there is a good match between the influenza strains in the vaccine and those causing current disease, the vaccine can prevent illness in about 70 to 90 percent of healthy children and adults,” the NCIRS said.

The Influenza Specialist Group, a not-for-profit group, has alerted the public to the presence of H3N2, which is a slightly different strain than the one in the vaccine. Approximately 98 percent of the cases diagnosed in Southeastern Australia have been the result of H3N2.

“The strain that’s in the vaccine almost certainly will provide some protection against the H3N2 strain that is circulating, but it’s not exactly the same,” Paddy Phillips, the chief medical officer of SA Health, said. “That may be contributing to the fact that we’re seeing more of that H3N2 strain.”

Officials said that people experiencing flu-like symptoms should seek medical attention. In 2010, the flu season began late with only 103 cases diagnosed by the same time this year. There have been 2,037 cases reported so far this year. There were 4,272 cases reported in 2010, only 500 fewer than last year’s total.

Vaccine News Daily

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