HomeHealthFlu deaths spark health fears

Flu deaths spark health fears

Eleven people have died from influenza in Queensland and more than 7000 cases have been recorded so far this year, with health authorities voicing concern about the number of hospitalisations this flu season.

Since the start of 2024, more than 700 people have been hospitalised due to serious illness from influenza.

There are currently 83 people in hospital, according to the most recent Queensland Health data, published on March 25.

Acting Chief Health Officer Catherine McDougall said the number of hospitalisations for this time of year was concerning.

“This year alone, we have seen hundreds of people already hospitalised with influenza, with people aged 65 and over most affected,” Dr McDougall said.

“These hospitalisations are concerning given we are still a few months off from the peak flu season.

“We hope to see more Queenslanders get vaccinated this year against the flu — particularly pregnant people, children aged between six months and five years, and those aged 65 and over.”

A Queensland paramedic stands at the back of an ambulance.
Authorities are worried flu hospitalisations could spike later this year.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

‘Vaccine fatigue’

Flu season typically runs from May to October, with most cases recorded in August.

Queensland Health figures show there had been 7190 lab confirmed cases of influenza in the year to March 25 — more than double the five-year average.

The state has recorded more than 18,500 COVID-19 cases so far this year, although total case numbers for both viruses are believed to be much higher.

Last year, Queensland recorded more than 74,000 flu cases and 144 deaths were reported.

Premier Steven Miles said the state government would again be rolling out free flu vaccines for anyone aged six months and older.

“Our free flu vaccination program is an easy way to get yourself covered ahead of winter without the barrier of cost, and has helped almost one million people get protected so far,” he said.

Free vaccines can be booked at GPs and pharmacies.

The $40 million program continues the free vaccines, which have been on offer since 2022.

Health Minister Shannon Fentiman
Shannon Fentiman said the flu has already claimed 11 lives in Queensland this year.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

But Mr Miles said influenza vaccine uptake dropped significantly last year compared to 2022, with only one in three Queenslanders vaccinated.

“Many people have vaccine fatigue after the pandemic, which means we are recording significant drops in vaccinations against things like the flu,” Mr Miles said.

“While it might seem like the common cold, influenza can be deadly, which is why it’s so important to get a flu shot every single year.”

Queensland Health said flu vaccination uptake was particularly low last year among children aged five and under.

Health Minister Shannon Fentiman said getting a flu shot would help ease pressure on the health system.

“We know nearly all people presenting to hospital with the flu last year had not been vaccinated, which puts significant pressure on our emergency departments,” she said.

“Making it free ahead of the peak flu season keeps people safe and ensures our health system is available for Queenslanders who need it most.”

2020 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.
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