The flu has hit the Bundaberg region hard this season.
The flu has hit the Bundaberg region hard this season. Getty Images

Worst year on record? Region's flu toll soars

DESPITE health professionals warning it's too early to say this is the Wide Bay region's worst flu season on record, the figures speak for themselves.

In Wide Bay this year, 1125 cases of influenza have been recorded, with almost half occurring in the past month.

To make matters worse sources have told the NewsMail some pharmacies have run out of stock at different times as they struggled to cope with demand for vaccinations.

A spokesperson for Terry White Chemmart said that this appears to be driven by a worse than usual flu season.

Doctor shortages have also complicated matters with appointments few and far between with some sufferers facing lengthy delays to get initial diagnoses.

This year was particularly challenging as the season began months earlier than the usual start time of June.

Wide Bay Public Health physician Dr Roscoe Taylor said Wide Bay's flu data was five times the year-to-date average when compared to the past five years.

"If the season continues as it has over the next few months then the numbers notified by laboratories will certainly eclipse any previous year's documented case numbers," he said. "It should also be noted that notifications are only lab- confirmed cases and do not represent the many more unreported cases of influenza in the community."

However, Dr Taylor said it was too early to determine if this was the biggest flu season the community had faced.

"The 2019 notifications for this year to date are inflated by the unusually early start of the influenza season and it may be premature to draw conclusions about the overall 2019 influenza numbers," he said.

"Overall interpretation will depend on how long the flu season lasts and when notifications start to decline.

"Advances in technology and increased availability of flu testing are increasing the overall notifications reported compared with previous seasons."

Bundy local and NewsMail employee Gail Irwin is still recovering after contracting the flu two weeks ago.

"I know it sounds ridiculous, but I'm not being melodramatic when I say I actually thought I was dying," she said.

"I'm not the type of person that gets struck down easy, but I have never been so sick in my entire life."

On July 17, Mrs Irwin woke up feeling a little funny but went to work regardless.

An hour and a half later, her fever was so high that nothing could cool her down and she had to leave.

Mrs Irwin attempted to make a doctor's appointment that same day but was told there was no spot available until July 23, almost a week later.

When she finally received medical treatment, her doctor prescribed a course of antibiotics and recommended plenty of rest, but sleep was not possible in her condition.

To make matters worse, Mrs Irwin suffers from asthma, making her a candidate in the high-risk group.

Her symptoms became so severe, she was unable to complete simple tasks such as making toast.

"My joint pain was incredible and I was coughing so hard that I pulled all the muscles in my ribs - every time I had to sneeze, my entire body was in this immense pain," she said.

"Years ago, we would get a cold and say 'Oh, I have the flu', but believe me, when you actually experience the flu, you know it and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy."

Before Mrs Irwin contracted the flu, she had arranged to get the flu vaccine from a local pharmacy, but when they ran out of stock, she had no choice but to wait.



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