Rise in flu cases con­cerns doc­tors

Marlborough Midweek - - FRONT PAGE - MELANIE CAR­ROLL

This year’s flu sea­son could be the most deadly in years, fol­low­ing trends from the north­ern hemi­sphere.

In 2015, there were 767 deaths from the flu and pneu­mo­nia, ac­cord­ing to Min­istry of Health data, and the ma­jor­ity were women.

That’s about seven peo­ple out of 100,000 - com­pared with 49 peo­ple per 100,000 in 1970.

Health au­thor­i­ties have up­dated this year’s flu vac­cine to in­clude im­mu­ni­sa­tion against the life-threat­en­ing flu strain A (H3N2), nick­named ‘‘Aussie Flu’’.

Last win­ter, the deadly strain af­fected about 230,000 Aus­tralians and killed nearly 750.

Ear­lier this year, a new strain of the flu virus over­seas re­sulted in a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tions and emer­gency de­part­ment ad­mis­sions from in­fluenza and its com­pli­ca­tions.

There were 40,414 deaths in the US dur­ing the third week of 2018, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent data avail­able, and 4064 were from pneu­mo­nia or in­fluenza.

Last month, Nel­son Marl­bor­ough Health chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer and pe­di­a­tri­cian Dr Nick Baker said the flu sea­son in Europe and the US had been as bad as the 2009 swine flu pan­demic, dur­ing which 49 peo­ple in New Zealand died af­ter con­tract­ing the A(H1N1) virus.

‘‘It re­ally puts pres­sure on emer­gency de­part­ments, in­ten­sive care units and in wards, with lots and lots of pa­tients in cor­ri­dors,’’ Baker said.

Fig­ures com­par­ing the re­cent north­ern hemi­sphere in­fluenza sea­son with the 2009 pan­demic showed there could be up to three times as many flu cases this year com­pared with the last sea­son, in terms of pa­tients ad­mis­sions to hospi­tal, he said.

Peo­ple can get their flu shot for free if they’re at high risk of get­ting in­fluenza, in­clud­ing those aged 65 and older, preg­nant women, and peo­ple with chronic or se­ri­ous health con­di­tions, such as heart dis­ease, can­cer or se­vere asthma.

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