Queenslanders warned to brace for horror flu season

QUEENSLANDERS are being warned to brace for a horror flu season, as new data shows nearly three times the normal number of cases have been reported since the start of the year.

Health Department data ­reveals a higher level of inter-season flu cases have been reported across the state since January 1, with 800 lab-confirmed incidences of influenza compared to the five-year ­average of 301.

This is before the official flu season even begins and comes as the Northern Hemisphere continues to battle an epidemic of the A (H3N2) strain.

A Queensland Health spokesman said flu was typically at its worst in the state ­between May and October.

"It is difficult to attribute the apparent inter-seasonal increase to anything in particular but it may reflect the impact of increasing influenza activity in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere, and/or could be a result of increased numbers of laboratory tests for flu being performed in Queensland," he said.

GP and former Australian Medical Association state president Shaun Rudd said predicting how severe a particular flu season would be was always difficult.

But he said the high number of early cases was "concerning", possibly indicating a bad season was looming.

Late last year the Therapeutic Goods Administration confirmed the A (H3N2) strain, which has forced elective surgery delays in France as the country braces for a high death toll, would be part of this year's influenza vaccine.

North America and Canada have also recorded deaths from the virus in recent months, local media reports.

The vaccine, which will protect against two A strains and two B strains, is expected to ­become available in April.

It is provided for free under the Federal Government's National Immunisation Program to especially vulnerable people.

News Corp Australia

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