There was an item on last night's TV news claiming that this year's flu season in Australia is shaping up to be the worst for some time. Heath Kelly, Professor (Adjunct) in Infectious Diseases Epidemiology at Australian National University has a countering view for reasons he goes into here:
It seems that GPs may not necessarily notify the relevant authorities when they encounter a patient with an influenza like illness (which may or may not be the flu) and there is an increasing proportion of notifications from testing laboratories over the last 10 years, which has flattened out in the last 5 years.
The big peaks in the Google Flu Trends plots for 2009, 2012 and 2014, (which is a proxy method of monitoring influenza) correlate with the peaks in the 'Influenza like illness' plots in the article, not the actual notifications:
That makes sense, because people will search for flu symptoms and remedies if they have a flu like illness.
Note the statement in the summary of health.gov.au/flureport#cur... referenced in Heath Kelly's article. "Over 80% of the influenza B viruses characterised are a match to the trivalent vaccine strain; the remaining influenza B viruses match the additional strain in the quadrivalent vaccine." On that basis, having the free flu vaccination for those 65 or older or those with a compromised immune system e.g. caused by CLL, will protect you against 80% of the influenza strains circulating in Australia and paying for the quadrivalent vaccine will protect you against all of the current strains.
While it seems that there are "Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics" (origin uncertain), irrespective of whether the flu or a flu like illness is more prevalent, I'd recommend that if you have CLL/SLL or care with someone with it, you should have an annual flu vaccination, keep your distance from anyone with an apparent respiratory infection and wash your hands frequently, while avoiding touching your mouth, nose or eyes with your hands unless you have just washed your hands.
Stay safe this winter cold and flu season!