Australia’s flu season has barely begun but this year has already seen 74,666 confirmed cases of influenza, according to the Department of Health.1
By comparison, there were 14,446 confirmed flu cases during this same time last year (1 January to 6 June).
There have been 162 deaths associated with influenza reported to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) as of 06 June 2019.
What is being done in preparation for flu season in Australia?
So far, more than 12 million flu vaccines have been released to Australians; of those, around 7.5 million were designated to the National Immunisation Program, as well as state/territory programs, and the remaining five million to the private market.
This year’s quadrivalent flu vaccine contains two influenza A strains and two influenza B strains, while a trivalent (two influenza A strains and one influenza B strain) vaccine is available for people aged 65 and over.2
The flu vaccine in Australia is available for free to anyone at higher risk. This includes:
- Pregnant women
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (over six months of age)
- People aged 65 years and older
- Young children aged six months to less than five years
- People with certain medical conditions
The state governments are also taking action to combat the 2019 flu season.
The NSW Government, for example, is spending more than $22 million on immunisation programs targeting flu prevention around the state, which includes $2.6 million worth of free flu vaccines for young children and a $1.5 million awareness campaign.3
So, how can you protect yourself from the flu?
According to the Queensland Government, vaccination is the best way to avoid getting the flu, as it not only protects you from the virus but also prevents you from spreading it to other people.4
As well as vaccination, there are other ways you can help prevent infection and the spread of the flu. The NSW Ministry of Health recommends:5
- washing your hands often or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
- sneezing into your elbow and covering your face with a tissue when you cough and sneeze; and
- staying home and away from people if you’re sick and keeping sick children home from school.
The Queensland Government further suggests7 you:
- refrain from sharing things that have had contact with noses and mouths, like cups
- wash your hands before touching your face; and
- clean surfaces and areas that are frequently touched, like tables, phones and keyboards, remote controls and door handles.
Ensure you’re protected all year round
You can protect yourself from the flu, but even the best of us can’t prevent every little thing that could affect our health.
If you do end up in hospital, it can be better to have more options available to you; such as choosing your own physician, or having a private room.
Find out more about how health insurance can supplement Medicare during a tough period. Find out more about how health insurance can supplement Medicare during a tough period.
 In an email to Compare the Market. Table 1. Notified cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza and associated deaths reported to the NNDSS, by each year to 6 June, 2014 – 2019.
 From 2019 seasonal influenza vaccines, 2019, Therapeutic Goods Administration, used with permission of the Australian Government [https://www.tga.gov.au/alert/2019-seasonal-influenza-vaccines]
© State of New South Wales NSW Ministry of Health – ‘Flu season starts – vaccinate now to beat the bug’. Media release, published 20 May 2019. Sourced May 2019.
© The State of Queensland 2018 – Influenza (the flu). Last updated April 2019. Sourced May 2019.
© State of New South Wales NSW Ministry of Health – Influenza fact sheet. Page updated May 2019. Sourced May 2019.