THE flu season is back with a vengeance, with more than 1050 reported cases in the past two weeks alone — and it’s young people copping it the hardest.
Latest figures released by the Department of Health show 7881 cases of influenza being reported in Australia this year. Of these, swine flu — or H1N1 — makes up the bulk of cases.
Figure show there have been 4000 cases among those aged under 5 and between 25 and 49 years.
While stopping short of labelling the swine flu cases as a “huge outbreak”, the Department of Health has warned people to stay on guard for symptoms of the virus.
In 2009, an international swine flu outbreak killed thousands of people across the globe. In Australia, 186 people lost their lives while another 37,000 people contracted the virus.
Swine flu’s global death toll of 18,500 in 2009 was revised last year by Lancet magazine as closer to 250,000.
According to a Department of Health spokesman, most cases of swine flu in Australia this year had occurred in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland.
But he warned “it was the tip of the iceberg” as these cases were laboratory confirmed cases of the virus and many more went unreported.
“As only laboratory confirmed cases of influenza are notifiable, it can be difficult to draw conclusions about the true impact of influenza activity in the community from notification data alone as there is a proportion of cases where no health care was sought, or testing performed,” he said in a statement.
Of the 1050 cases of swine flue reported recently, Queensland has had the biggest outbreak with 308 cases reported, followed by NSW, 265, Victoria, 216, and South Australia, 130.
Last year, Australia recorded 28,000 cases, with 2400 being reported in August during the peak week.
Influenza epidemics occur every year between May and October in Australia, with the swine flu virus “remaining stable.”
Swine flu symptoms include a fever, cough, headache, tiredness, with more serious cases developing diarrhoea, pneumonia and encephalitis and lung and heart failure.
Vaccines are free for pregnant women, people aged over 65, Aboriginal people and those suffering from chronic illnesses.
Doctors and government health experts say good hygiene is the most important way of stopping a flu virus in its tracks.
Thorough washing of hands after contact with others and sneezing into the crook of your elbow rather than a tissue can also help prevent the spread of the flu virus.