REVEALED: The increasing trend worrying health experts
A DOCTOR has called for compulsory flu vaccinations for aged care workers as data reveals an increase in influenza across the Mackay region already this year.
Mackay Hospital and Health Service has reported four times as many flu cases in the first five weeks of 2019, 85 cases compared to a four-year average of 19.
Last year, Queensland Health recorded 442 influenza notifications, resulting in 55 hospitalisations.
This comes as new Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows an increasing trend of preventable hospitalisations in Mackay from vaccine preventable pneumonia and influenza.
During the 2016-17 financial year, preventable hospitalisations from the flu nearly doubled with 109 hospitalisations.
Flu patients took up more than 660 bed days.
Immunisation Coalition chairman Robert Booy warned if the community did not embrace the yearly flu vaccine, vulnerable people would be taken to hospital.
He said the rise in flu rates could be fatal for older residents because of their decreased immunity.
Professor Booy said "we have a good, but not perfect immunisations against influenza".
As the royal commission into the aged care and nursing sector begins, Prof Booy is suggesting aged care workers be required to have the flu vaccine.
"In order to stop outbreaks in nursing homes, they require staff vaccinations (to be mandatory)," he said.
The 2018 Health of Queensland report found the Mackay region had an 86 per cent higher rate of pneumonia and influenza as the leading cause of death.
This comes as other vaccine-preventable diseases make a resurgence, with a 20 per cent increase in the 2017 financial year.
While Mackay continues to have high childhood immunisation rates, with 95.9 per cent fully vaccinated before their first birthday, the Whitsunday region still lags behind the state.
The Whitsunday was the 17th worst region for immunisation in 2018, falling 2.3 per cent below the recommended rate of 95 per cent for herd immunity.
Mackay Base Hospital was contacted for comment but did not respond by time of print.