Sydney hit by flu
4 May, 2018
Have you been sick from work recently?
If you live in Sydney you’re not alone. In fact the whole city is in the middle of an illness crisis with a sharp rise in the number of flu cases over last year and thousands struck down with gastroenteritis in the last week alone. It’s a city with a collective runny nose and upset stomach.
A cold winter in Sydney is boosting the flu season. But the lack of rain is really helping.
It’ll come as no surprise that the cold winter nights may be partly to blame. What may be more surprising, however, is that this winter’s lack of rain also appears to have played a role. Far from wet conditions helping a virus do its worse, the opposite is true in most parts of Australia. The cold and dry Sydney weather is creating the perfect conditions to strengthen the virus. Medical professionals have said it’s not just kids and the elderly that have to watch out; younger, healthier people are being hit hard this year too.
It could end up being the worst flu season on record.
A number of gastroenteritis outbreaks across NSW including child care centres and aged care facilities have landed almost 2000 people in emergency departments in the past week, health authorities say.
On Thursday, NSW Health said there was a 34 per cent increase in viral gastroenteritis notifications across the state over last year.Coupled with that, NSW Health has also said there had been a “marked increase” in presentations to emergency departments for pneumonia and influenza-like illnesses including 53 critical care admissions up to 30 July.
More than 11,000 influenza cases were reported in the state in July with a “spike” in aged care facilities, the Government department said.
“Each year more than 800 people die in NSW from complications associated with influenza,” said Dr Vicky Sheppeard, the Director of the Communicable Diseases at NSW Health. “We are seeing high levels of both influenza A and B strains circulating in the community and older people are more susceptible to severe infection from the influenza A strain that is circulating.”
There has also been a 34 per cent increase in viral gastroenteritis in the state.
Flu B has overtaken Flu A
It was unusual to see the flu B virus be so prevalent this early in the season, Dr David Muscatello, an epidemiologist at the University of New South Wales’ School of Public Health and Community Medicine, told news.com.au.
“Flu B usually starts later in the season after flu A but this year it started to pick up first.
“The strains affect people in different ways. Flu A has a larger impact on older people and younger children while flu B affects younger people more widely,” Dr Muscatello said.
With flu B out of the traps first this year, it’s left younger people more at risk earlier in the season to be struck down.
However, older people, with more health problems, are less able to shrug the virus off. What makes one flu season fairly benign while another supercharged is still not fully understood by public health experts.
Another factor at play is climate with this year’s record dry winter across the south east coupled with some particularly cold nights in NSW leading to potentially prefect conditions for the influenza virus
“There is evidence to suggest cold and dry weather can be a factor in a flu season,” Dr Sampson explained. Vaccination is recommend for vulnerable people.
NSW Health’s flu-free advice remains the same. Avoid ill people, crowded places and if you have the symptoms, don’t visit vulnerable people or aged care facilities
Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, use disposable tissues and wash your hands regularly.
If you are showing signs of flu or gastro, contact Annandale Family Doctors on (02) 9660 7208.