Flu cases plummet but you still need the jab
QUEENSLAND public hospital admissions for flu have dived during the coronavirus pandemic.
The latest Queensland Health data shows that for the past fortnight, just one person required admission to a public hospital with influenza.
For the two weeks ending on Sunday, only two patients with laboratory-confirmed flu were treated at public emergency departments in the state.
So far in 2020, 311 Queenslanders have required public hospital admission with flu, compared with the five-year average for the same period of 541.
The much lower figures come 14 months after a public hospital "bed crisis" was declared in Queensland's southeast, partly due to the severe 2019 flu season.
Last week, just 14 people were diagnosed with influenza across the whole of Queensland.
But University of Queensland virologist Ian Mackay warned flu numbers could rise as people started mixing again due to the gradual relaxation of public health restrictions to contain the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Associate Professor Mackay urged Queenslanders to get their flu shot if they had not already had the jab, which is free for pregnant women, children from six months to less than five years, people with chronic illnesses, those aged 65 and older and all people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island descent.
"The flu vaccine is the only preventive we have for the flu, and we do not want to burden hospitals with sick flu patients if we can help it," he said.
Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dilip Dhupelia said a flu vaccination this year was "more important than ever".
"With the ongoing threat COVID-19 has on our communities, it is vital we do everything possible to reduce the risk of contracting both illnesses at the same time," Dr Dhupelia said.
"This year new flu notifications have dropped dramatically since social distancing began which is why we saw fewer cases of influenza in March and April. But, as restrictions are being eased, people are out and about again.
"Those with influenza will be at higher risk of also contracting COVID-19 which would make them extremely ill.
"People who get the influenza vaccine will be better protected from the serious prospect of having both COVID-19 and influenza at the same time."
Since January, 5784 people have had laboratory confirmed flu in Queensland - higher than the 2015-2019 average of 5058 at this stage of the year. But the relatively large numbers of flu in Queensland in 2020 are off the back of high numbers earlier in the year before restrictions were implemented to control the spread of the pandemic coronavirus.
In 2019, more than 68,000 Queenslanders were diagnosed with the flu - the worst year on record in terms of the number of cases, including 264 people who died with laboratory confirmed influenza.
The Federal Health Department said it had seen "record demand" for seasonal flu shots during the coronavirus pandemic.
Originally published as Flu cases plummet but you still need the jab