Coast flu cases already two times above average

THE Sunshine Coast is already finding itself in the grip of the worst flu season in five years.

And Nambour GP Dr Wayne Herdy has warned we are "overdue for an influenza pandemic".

In the three months since the beginning of the year, the Sunshine Coast and Gympie region has already recorded more than 50 cases of influenza diagnosed through laboratory testing.

Sunshine Coast Public Health Unit director Dr Andrew Langley said during this same period, about 1000 people had tested positive for influenza in Queensland.

"These figures are about two times higher than the average at this time of year for the past five years," he said.

"It should also be noted in addition to the above recorded cases, many more people get the flu but do not see a doctor or have a blood test."

The strain of influenza affecting the Sunshine Coast this year so far was identified as H1N1, a strain which "tends to disproportionately affect young and middle-aged adults, resulting in them being hospitalised".

"H1N1 circulated widely in the northern hemisphere winter and was responsible for the 2009 pandemic," Dr Langley said.

Dr Herdy and Dr Langley have both urged people to vaccinate themselves against the flu, which will be available at GPs from this weekend.

"The flu vaccine is very harmless. It only has mild local symptoms," Dr Herdy said "Despite what the anti-vaccination lobby argues, very few people come to any harm. The only one reason not to have it is if there is a proven allergy to egg or egg products."



What influenza is:

A highly contagious disease caused by infection from influenza type A or B (or rarely C) virus

Vaccination is required annually as the vaccine changes each year to cover the expected disease strains

Various groups of people, including the elderly pregnant women and people with medical conditions, are eligible for free vaccinations.

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