Early flu season packs a punch

Early flu season packs a punch, by Sean Parnell. Here’s something unusual:

The enormous increase in the number of people getting flu jabs last year following a particularly bad season in 2017 may have reduced community immunity, leading to an early season this year.

The latest Australia Influenza Surveillance Report shows that laboratory-confirmed flu cases have been unusually high, and rising, since the start of the year, with the number of notifications last month easily surpassing the peak in September last year. …

The usual warnings:

The minimum estimate of the death toll is 192, demonstrating the need for people to protect themselves and others.

Commonwealth-funded free vaccines are available to eligible people, including those 65 and older, pregnant women, and anyone six months and older who is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or who has certain medical conditions that increase the risk of infection.

Jo:

This is the first time I’ve heard this theory, that a surge in vaccinations last year may have caused the early rise this year? It tells us something interesting (if it is the case). Though I’m somewhat skeptical. I’m sure part of the surge is due to the media attention and possibly more people going to the doc or ED if they get the flu than would usually.

The optional flu vaccines are still helping about half the people who get them (see below). One drawback with vaccines (and I’m sure they’ll figure it out one day) is that our bodies have a stronger — probably multipronged response — to real infections and we can’t mimic that exactly yet. I’m looking forward to when they can.

Vaccine Effectiveness statistics (Aust. Gov):

In general, influenza vaccine effectiveness has been found to vary between 30-60%. This implies that, on average, a vaccinated person is 30-60% less likely to experience the outcome being measured (e.g. influenza leading to attendance at a general practice or hospitalisation) than an unvaccinated person.

The Western Australian statistics are extraordinary!

David A:

Another factor is that people can’t afford, or think they can’t afford, to heat their houses in winter.

hat-tip Joanne