‘Stay at home’: Warning as cases spike

Influenza cases are on the rise in Australia
Influenza cases are on the rise in Australia

Aussies are being urged to stay home if they are unwell as influenza cases spike across the country.

Hospitals across Victoria have been put on high alert due to a surge in flu cases.

Flu cases have risen by 28 per cent in Victoria over the past two weeks, with experts warning of more variants and low vaccination rates as the cause for the high numbers.

New South Wales has also seen a 33 per cent spike in serious cases, according to the latest NSW Health Respiratory Surveillance Report.

Aussies who come down with a sniffle will know within 24 hours whether it’s the flu, Covid, a common cold or one of 14 different respiratory viruses, thanks to a new Aussie test. The results of the pathology test will allow people to act quickly to purchase antiviral medication that could shorten the length and severity of the flu or Covid.

Epidemiologist, Professor Adrian Esterman, points to fatigue over Covid-era rules as a key reason for the high case numbers.

“Fewer and fewer people are protecting themselves with face masks and handwashing and because of that, people are more exposed to the flu than this time last year,” he told 7NEWS.

As winter continues, more people are becoming sick with influenza.
As winter continues, more people are becoming sick with influenza.

“The second reason is there’s been a bit of an early start to the flu season in the Northern Hemisphere. The current strain of influenza that’s circulating now is identical to that (which) was seen in last winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

“And of course we’re seeing more and more people travelling internationally, so they’re bringing that strain back.”

Dr Max Mollenkopf has urged people stay home if they feel unwell.

“When you are sick just stay at home, the office doesn’t need you that badly. We can just help everyone to stay well,” he told the Project.

He also encouraged Aussies to get vaccinated against COVID and influenza.

He said it was important for kids to get vaccinated too.

“So many younger kids, they’re eligible for free flu vaccines and really they’re the ones bringing it from daycare and school and they’re the ones spreading it throughout the community.”

Prior to winter, Victorian chief health officer Clare Looker encouraged residents to get their flu shots to help protect against influenza.

“The flu can be deadly —getting vaccinated is the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones,” Dr Looker said.

Health officials and experts are urging people to get their flu shot. Picture: NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw

“The influenza virus changes throughout the year so new vaccines are developed for each season, which is why it’s critically important to stay up to date with your shots.”

Vaccinations for influenza are recommended for anyone six months and older, and is free for those considered to be at higher risk thanks to the National Immunisation Program.

Those considered to be at risk include children aged six months to under five years old, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and older, people aged 65 and over, and people with medical conditions.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the number of deaths from influenza as of March 2024 is 59, 20 of those deaths in NSW, 12 in Victoria and 16 in Queensland.