Influenza activity has reached the peak levels seen in 2014 (influenza activity in 2014 was the highest seen since the 2009 pandemic). Activity this year will match and may surpass 2014.
- The 2015 influenza season was predicted to peak in late August - this may still be the case but we will need to see a downturn in activity before we can say we are over the worst of this winter flu season
- Emergency Department (ED) presentations for influenza-like illness are now at the peak levels seen in 2014.
- Influenza notifications increased sharply this week and are likely to exceed the 3,388 influenza reports last week.
- All local health districts have seen a moderate or high increase in influenza activity.
- Four influenza strains circulating – 2 A strains and 2 B strains. Unlike most years, influenza B strains are more common than influenza A strains.
- Of the influenza A strains, the influenza A(H3N2) strain is predominating and it this strain that is continuing to lead to outbreaks in residential aged care facilities.
- Both of the circulating influenza A strains and one of the circulating influenza B strains are covered in the 2015 trivalent seasonal vaccines used in the national immunisation program. The other circulating influenza B strain was covered in last year’s vaccines but this year is only covered by the 2015 quadrivalent influenza vaccine.
Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. There are three main types of influenza virus that cause infection in humans - types A, B and C - and many sub-types or strains. Influenza can occur throughout the year but activity usually peaks in winter.
Winter Wise practical advice
Catch it and bin it
Influenza viruses can spread easily. Always carry a tissue and use it to catch your cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, coughing into your elbow is better than into your hands.
Influenza viruses can live for several hours on tissues. Throw used tissues in a rubbish bin as soon as possible.
Hands can transfer viruses and other germs to every surface you touch. Wash your hands thoroughly and often, especially after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
Wash hands for at least 10 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Stay at home
Wait at least 24 hours after your fever resolves before you return to work or other public activities so you do not infect others. Keep sick children away from school and other activities.
Follow the link for more Winter Wise advice.
Influenza vaccine is strongly recommended and available free for all people aged 65 years and over, Aboriginal children aged from 6 months to 4 years, Aboriginal people aged 15 years and over, pregnant women, and all people aged 6 months and over with medical conditions predisposing to severe influenza.
Follow the link for further information on seasonal influenza vaccination in 2015.
For more detailed influenza surveillance information from a range of sources see the NSW Health Influenza surveillance reports.