People are being urged to get an influenza vaccination as soon as possible amid concerns the nation could be hit by a severe outbreak of the disease following a killer season in the United States and Europe.
Chair of the Influenza Specialist Group Dr Alan Hampson said there had already been an “unusually high” number of influenza cases so far this summer, and people should act now to protect themselves and those around them from the potentially deadly disease.
Dr Hampson said 87 children in America had died as a result of complications after being infected with the flu, and New York was plunged into a state of emergency in January by the diagnosis of more than 19,000 cases – five times the number recorded in 2012.
“The flu virus struck hard and early in the Northern Hemisphere winter, and has spread quickly,” he said. “While the timing of the main influenza outbreak in Australia is unpredictable, we could well follow the same trend.”
The flu vaccine for 2013 has been formulated to include the H3N2, H1N1 and B viruses, which are closely related to those experienced in the recent Northern Hemisphere winter.
Flu vaccinations are free for pregnant women, the elderly, and those suffering asthma, respiratory problems, heart and kidney disease, and diabetes.
Dr Hampson said no amount of vitamin supplements would provide protection from the infection, and the single best preventive measure that could be taken was vaccination.