Alarming headlines and media protection have mentioned we have had 100 occasions as many influenza circumstances within the first two months of 2023 in contrast with the identical time the earlier yr.
The protection advised we’re in for a bumper flu season, beginning early and your finest safety was to get a flu vaccine, when out there.
However that scary sounding 100 determine is deceptive. This is what’s behind the figures and what we will actually count on from the 2023 flu season.
Evaluating apples with oranges
Within the first two months of 2023, there have been 8,474 laboratory-confirmed circumstances of influenza. In 2022, over the identical interval, there have been 79 circumstances.
So it might sound this yr’s figures are certainly greater than 100 occasions greater than final yr’s. However we should not be alarmed. That is as a result of in early 2022, influenza circumstances had been artificially low.
Strict COVID measures virtually eradicated influenza outbreaks in 2020 and 2021. Shutting worldwide borders, quarantining, social distancing and mask-wearing stopped influenza coming into the nation and spreading.
Many COVID restrictions weren’t relaxed till late February/March 2022. So, in January and February of that yr there have been fewer alternatives for us to mingle and unfold the influenza virus. It is hardly shocking there have been few circumstances then.
Actually, the speed of flu in 2023 is definitely similar to pre-COVID years (that’s earlier than 2020).
As all the time, the reported circumstances characterize only a fraction of the particular influenza circumstances. That is as a result of many individuals don’t search medical care when contaminated with influenza or their GP does not all the time take a look at them for it.
How about an earlier flu season?
Yearly, it appears, influenza throws a brand new curve ball making predictions tough.
Flu charges within the northern hemisphere largely peaked in December 2022, two months sooner than typical.
However there was some late-season influenza B exercise within the northern hemisphere this yr. That is one kind of influenza that causes seasonal flu. So vacationers arriving/coming back from the northern hemisphere have been bringing influenza to Australia for a number of months.
So we count on extra circumstances of influenza. Australia might even have an autumn surge. This occurred final yr, the place influenza circumstances rose sharply in Could, and peaked by June. That is two months sooner than the five-year common pre-COVID.
Earlier than COVID, influenza circumstances normally started to rise in April/Could. This progressed to a full epidemic from June to August, usually extending into September, earlier than waning in October.
So what can we count on in 2023?
The beginning, size and severity of influenza seasons range and are sometimes unpredictable.
Group immunity will probably be lower than in pre-COVID occasions. That is due to fewer influenza infections throughout COVID restrictions plus decrease influenza vaccine uptake lately.
So the 2023 flu season could also be at the least reasonably extreme. This stays hypothesis. Flu routinely surprises us.
The severity of the approaching Australian influenza season will probably be influenced by the forms of influenza that flow into, when the surge begins and when the season peaks. The effectiveness, uptake and timing of vaccinations and the diploma of remaining herd immunity will all be vital.
Plan to get vaccinated
Solely about 40% of these eligible had been vaccinated in opposition to influenza in 2022, in accordance with the Australian Immunisation Register database. Charges had been highest in individuals aged 65 or older.
Nonetheless, as we noticed an early influenza season in 2022 (peaking in Could/June) this meant many Australians weren’t vaccinated throughout the early levels of the epidemic.
With this data, it is vital to be vaccinated in April/Could earlier than influenza turns into widespread.
Now is an efficient time to start out making ready to get your flu vaccine. Ask your GP or pharmacist when you’ll be able to ebook your self in.
Vaccination is our greatest protection in opposition to influenza and is really helpful from the age of 6 months. Youthful infants obtain safety if their mum was vaccinated throughout being pregnant.
The 2023 vaccine has been up to date to guard in opposition to extra lately circulating strains. There are additionally differing types of influenza vaccine, some simpler in aged individuals, some free below the Nationwide Immunisation Program, some not. Different vaccines can be found for individuals with egg allergic reactions and for babies. It is best to debate the vaccine choices along with your GP or pharmacist.
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Are flu circumstances already 100 occasions greater than final yr? This is what we actually know in regards to the 2023 flu season (2023, March 17)
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