Alarming headlines and media protection have mentioned we have had 100 occasions as many influenza instances within the first two months of 2023 in contrast with the identical time the earlier yr.
The protection urged we’re in for a bumper flu season, beginning early and your finest safety was to get a flu vaccine, when accessible.
However that scary sounding 100 determine is deceptive. Here 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 instances of influenza. In 2022, over the identical interval, there have been 79 instances.
So it may appear 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 instances 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 stunning there have been few instances then.
In truth, the speed of flu in 2023 is definitely similar to pre-COVID years (that’s earlier than 2020).
As all the time, the reported instances symbolize only a fraction of the particular influenza instances. 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 check 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 normal.
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/getting back from the northern hemisphere have been bringing influenza to Australia for a number of months.
So we count on extra instances of influenza. Australia could even have an autumn surge. This occurred final yr, the place influenza instances rose sharply in Might, and peaked by June. That is two months sooner than the five-year common pre-COVID.
Earlier than COVID, influenza instances normally started to rise in April/Might. This progressed to a full epidemic from June to August, typically extending into September, earlier than waning in October.
So what can we count on in 2023?
The beginning, size and severity of influenza seasons fluctuate and are sometimes unpredictable.
Neighborhood immunity shall 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 a minimum of reasonably extreme. This stays hypothesis. Flu routinely surprises us.
The severity of the approaching Australian influenza season shall be influenced by the sorts 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 essential.
Plan to get vaccinated
Solely about 40% of these eligible had been vaccinated in opposition to influenza in 2022, in keeping with the Australian Immunisation Register database. Charges had been highest in individuals aged 65 or older.
Nevertheless, as we noticed an early influenza season in 2022 (peaking in Might/June) this meant many Australians weren’t vaccinated in the course of the early phases of the epidemic.
With this information, it is essential to be vaccinated in April/Might earlier than influenza turns into frequent.
Now is an efficient time to begin making ready to get your flu vaccine. Ask your GP or pharmacist when you’ll be able to e book your self in.
Vaccination is our greatest protection in opposition to influenza and is advisable 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 not too long ago circulating strains. There are additionally differing kinds of influenza vaccine, some more practical in aged individuals, some free underneath 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 together with your GP or pharmacist.
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Are flu instances already 100 occasions greater than final yr? Here is what we actually know concerning the 2023 flu season (2023, March 17)
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