Too early to tell how this year's flu season will unfold

QUEENSLAND Health has hosed down reports this year's flu season will be severe, saying influenza notifications at this stage are slightly higher than average.

A statement by the department said there had been 1560 influenza notifications in Queensland this year.

While the figure was slightly higher than average, it was no indication of the severity of the upcoming flu season, and it was too early to predict how the season would unfold.

"For example, at this time in 2011 there were 1411 notifications of influenza, and that year the total number of cases reached around 10,407," the statement read.

"At this time in 2012 there were 462 notifications, with approximately 16,987 flu cases being confirmed that year."

The influenza season usually starts in May, but Queensland Health said now was the time to have an influenza vaccination to protect yourself from getting the flu and transmitting it to others.

By having the vaccine now you will be properly covered in time for winter.

Meanwhile, data just released by Roy Morgan research shows flu rates in some suburban areas, towns and country regions are consistently around a third higher than the national norm, ranking regional residents as among the nation's most influenzial people.

The research also has named Australia's flu hot spots over the past five years.

Last year, 23.3% of Australians aged 14 and over reported having the flu in the past 12 months - the lowest result in the past five years.

Newcastle topped the list as Australia's flu capital with 31.9%, just pipping South-Western Sydney on 31.8%.

South-Western Sydney has been among the nation's top five flu hotspots for four consecutive years, with an average annual self-reported flu rate since 2009 of one in three (33.4%) residents.

Coming in at number three in 2013 was another chronic influenza hotspot, Townsville, with 31%.

The tropical region has made the top five for the fourth time since 2009.

Queenslanders in non-metro coastal areas are also more prone to suffering the flu (or at least believing they've suffered it), with 30.4% of them in 2013, giving the area its third consecutive top five appearance.

Consumer products group account director Angela Smith said people might well associate the flu with blustery southern winters, but Australia's top five influenza zones were all more northern than the five regions with the lowest proportion of residents reporting the illness.

"These figures are based on survey respondents' own assertion that they had the flu in the past year, so while rates may indeed be regularly higher in Townsville, it's possible the area's tropically adjusted residents are just more likely to over-diagnose a sniffle," she said.

Topics:  flu health queensland health

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