Killer strain: Flu kills 37 in NSW
THE nightmare early flu season has already killed 37 people in NSW this year - almost the entire number of deaths for the whole of 2018.
The number of cases of people getting sick with the flu has increased by more than 60 per cent in just one week in some suffering suburbs.
NSW Health's latest report, which covers May 13-19, shows northern Sydney has been particularly hard hit, with cases of flu increasing by more than 60 per cent on the previous week. But, worryingly, the illness is spreading far and wide.
Respiratory infections at emergency departments in Western Sydney jumped by 18 per cent in a week and on the Central Coast they rose by 15 per cent.
NSW Communicable Diseases data shows there have been 13,430 influenza cases this year as of the week ending May 18, compared with just 4092 cases at the same time last year.
And, if this trend continues, that figure will soon easily surpass the total 17,423 influenza cases for the whole of 2018.
Of the 37 confirmed flu deaths, 30 people were aged 65 and over while the rest were in the 45-64 age bracket. Seven of the deaths occurred in May, 11 were in April, three were in March, 10 were in February and six were in January.
While there were only 40 flu-deaths in NSW in 2018, 559 people died in 2017 when 103,852 cases of the illness were recorded.
"According to the number of cases we're having this is unfortunately the number of deaths we expect to have," said NSW Health's director of communicable diseases Dr Vicky Sheppeard. "It will peak in six weeks and finish in 12-14 weeks so if that pattern finishes it doesn't mean we'll have anything like 2017.
"But at this point we don't know because we don't have a crystal ball."
The NSW Health report shows there were 255 confirmed flu cases in northern Sydney between May 13-19, up from 158 cases the previous week. The snapshot also shows there were 1320 cases for the week ending May 19, an alarming increase on the 979 of the week before.
Dr Sheppeard said more than two million doses of the influenza vaccine have already been rolled out in NSW and it was believed to be "well matched" to the virus.
"Influenza A is making up about three-quarters of the cases we're detecting but we have seen an increase in the level of influenza B as well," she said.