A report by Queensland Health has revealed the 2019 flu season has been one of the worst on record, with 65,680 cases of influenza in Queensland. That compares to 15,685 notifications in 2018.

Almost 200 people have died in one of the worst flu seasons in Queensland’s history as authorities continue to warn people to better understand the illness and take appropriate precautions to prevent and manage it.

What is Influenza?

Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness affecting the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. There are three types of influenza: A, B and C. Influenza A is the most serious and is the only type known to cause widespread seasonal outbreaks, whilst B and C have less severe effects and can commonly be treated with bed rest. The influenza virus is always changing and evolving with Australia facing a new strain of the illness every winter.

What are the symptoms and how does it spread?

If you have caught the flu you would be feeling the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Some children may also have abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea.

These symptoms start with the spread of tiny droplets made through coughing, sneezing or talking that can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. A person may also catch the flu by touching a surface or object with the flu virus on it before touching their face, mouth or eyes. Children are most likely to fall ill to influenza. Research suggests that someone may be able to spread the flu to someone else before knowing they have the illness, making prevention difficult.

How can it be prevented/treated?

To prevent catching the flu, House Call Doctor recommends getting a flu vaccine each year. This service is offered in most Australian workplaces in the lead up to and during winter or can be conducted by your local GP. All influenza vaccines used in Australia are made from the deactivated ‘shell’ of the flu virus. Therefore, there is no live influenza present meaning the vaccine will not give you the flu.  If you have the virus, the best ways to protect those around you is to stay home, sneeze into your elbow and regularly clean your hands and the surfaces you touch.

If you catch influenza, you can treat the illness relatively quickly if you rest in bed, take pain killers, drink plenty of water and eat light foods when you’re hungry. However, in some cases the flu can hang around for weeks and sometimes lead to serious complications like pneumonia, an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both longs causing an influx of fluid. This is most likely to affect the very young, the elderly, pregnant women, indigenous people and those with chronic health problems.

Judging by these recent figures, it is important to be weary of the influenza virus.