Record flu cases in May prompt warning

·2-min read

Australia has had its worst May on record when it comes to flu cases, prompting experts to warn this season will redefine what it means to be ready for the virus.

The national disease surveillance system reported about 65,770 confirmed influenza cases in May - more than double the month's previous record, which was set in 2019.

Dr Jonathan Anderson, an executive with pharmaceutical company Seqirus, said other countries would be looking to Australia to see how it dealt with the spike.

"Australia is in a unique position in that we are one of the first countries to face COVID and a simultaneous flu season that is similar to pre-COVID levels," he told a BioMelbourne Network forum.

"It's clear that the rest of the world will be watching our flu season closely and learning from our successes or failures."

As of June 5, the national surveillance system had this year received nearly 88,000 reports of flu cases - more than 47,800 of them, diagnosed in the previous fortnight.

The system was notified of 27 flu-related deaths in the year to date, and more than 730 people were reported as admitted to hospital because of influenza since April. Of those hospital admissions, about 6 per cent went directly to intensive care.

From mid-April, weekly confirmed caseloads were above the five-year average.

Dr Anderson said it was important Australia focused on innovative technology to help protect people from flu into the future.

Along with existing vaccines, experts were looking to new ones like a second generation of today's mRNA, and cell-based vaccines.

Dr Felicia Pradera, a manager at research organisation Defence Materials Technology Centre, said Australia should take lessons from COVID-19 to ensure it reponded well to influenza.

She suggested real-time data sharing could be improved, along with research sharing, and investment in platforms that could target specific pathogens.

"There's also greater potential for us to implement and leverage public-private partnerships, similar to Operation Warp Speed in the US, to ensure we can tackle Australia's key health priorities," Dr Pradera told the BioMelbourne Network forum.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting