22 October 2018

NSW Health today declared the official end of the 2018 flu season, acknowledging the NSW community’s efforts in making it the mildest in half a decade.

From 1 January to 17 October 2018, there were 15,022 confirmed cases of flu in NSW, compared to 101,027 cases for the same period in 2017.

So far in 2018, there have been 31 reports of deaths from flu, compared to 661 notified in 2017. While deaths from flu are under-reported, the drop underlines the milder nature of the flu season this year.

Director of Communicable Diseases, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said thanks to the vigilance and action of the community, NSW avoided repeating the brutal flu season experienced in 2017.

“The latest data shows that less than five per cent of swab tests taken in the last week found flu virus, which is the threshold used to mark the beginning and end of the flu season,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“The season began in the first week of August and lasted nine weeks, peaking in the first week of September.

“NSW has had its mildest flu season since 2013, due to a number of factors including the severe season in 2017, and people heeding sustained communication urging them to take action to prevent flu for themselves and their loved-ones.

“Several factors are likely to have contributed to a milder flu season this year, in particular we should acknowledge the efforts of the community who responded early to the call to be vaccinated and in greater numbers.

“There was a 50 per cent increase in requests for flu vaccines across NSW, and the vaccine this year was a better match to the main flu strains, predominantly influenza A(H1N1).”

NSW Health has distributed more than 2.3 million doses of government-funded vaccine to GPs and other providers this year.

Dr Sheppeard said while flu numbers were low, hospital emergency departments were busy but coped well because of a number of strategies employed to deal with the influx of patients.

Local Health Districts across NSW implemented their winter plans for local hospitals, including allocating additional resources during periods of high demand, providing free flu vaccinations for frontline staff and promoting good hygiene practices that help fight the spread of flu.

In 2017-18 the NSW Government is spending a record $22.75 million on state-wide immunisation programs, which includes a $1.75 million immunisation campaign and $3.5 million for free flu shots to children up to five years of age.