Is 2015 Shaping Up to be Our Worst Flu Season?

By Sharon Smith
Monday, 29 June, 2015

This year’s flu season is being hyped to be the worst yet, according to numerous reports distributed throughout medical and public media.
Influenza Specialist Group (ISG) reported that New South Wales showed a 47% rise in influenza cases in May 2015 compared to 2014, likely due to the government supply of flu vaccinations being delayed this year.
"This year has all the hallmarks of a severe season," said ISG chairman Alan Hampson. "We're just starting to see the beginning of the rise in cases, and we expect that to peak around August, September."
Warnings have been issued that emergency departments are due to be swamped with influenza-affected patients and the usual suspects - the elderly, young and pregnant women - are most at risk.
Whether or not people need another dose of the flu shot, Dr Hampson said, “At the moment I really don’t think there are sufficient levels of flu going beyond the winter or early spring period to justify a second vaccine dose.”
“But high-risk people, if they travel, get on cruise ships… may be well advised to have a second dose before they leave,” he said.
But is 2015 our worst flu season yet? Not necessarily, say epidemiology and infectious disease researchers.
At the moment, Australian law states that influenza diagnoses must be reported to authorities (or clinically suspected cases). However that relies on 1) clinicians filling out the paperwork themselves; and 2) clinicians referring their patients to labs for testing - who have automatic reporting systems. It also requires patients to actually go to the doctor when they have influenza symptoms.
So while the data points to a worse season this year, it could also be a case of better reporting, which is also a good thing as it leads to better research and treatment outcomes in the long term.

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