We tend to find that the flu season in Australia is an early predictor for the severity of the coming flu season in the Europe. And the early indications are the flu in Aus this year is bad – unprecedentedly bad. So, let’s get our flu vaccination campaign planning hats on!
First, let me explain yet another reference to the 1980s. One of the first computer games I ever played was ‘It came from the desert’. Naff doesn’t even begin to describe this by modern standards. But then it was the 1980s so competition was sparse!
There is an alarming report recently published by the Australian Department of Health illustrating that the influenza season has started early in Australia, and that the levels of confirm flu cases has already reached the sort of peak you’d expect to see mid-winter (July/August time) (Figures 1 and 2). Unsurprisingly, this has prompted extensive coverage in the media. The WHO’s Flunet confirms that flu season has started early in Aus and elsewhere.
Figure 1: Per cent of calls to Healthdirect related to ILI, Australia, 1 January 2014 to 2 June 2019, by month and week of call.
Figure 2: Notifications of laboratory confirmed influenza, Australia, 1 January 2014 to 2 June 2019, by month and week of diagnosis.
This could well mean that we have a severe flu season to look forward to come autumn and winter in Europe (and US for that matter): there’s some evidence that you can use Australian flu data as an early predictor of European and US flu seasons. So, now would be a good time to convince anybody who will listen (colleagues, patients, friends, family!) that influenza vaccination makes sense…