While we in the United States are enjoying warm temperatures this summer, Australians are entering their winter season. Just like with us in the northern hemisphere, influenza and other respiratory conditions appear in South America, Australia and New Zealand in May and remain through October, when spring arrives in the southern hemisphere. Additionally, influenza vaccine strains for the northern hemisphere are chosen based on what is seen in the southern hemisphere’s flu season, and vice-versa.
According to the latest influenza surveillance report from Australia, influenza activity is localized, regional or widespread in 7 of the eight territories (states). Laboratory-confirmed influenza cases are already on the rise, something not usually seen in May:
As you can see from the graph above, it’s not until late June and July that laboratory-confirmed cases are usually reported. This year, there was a bump in April (lots of type B influenza, from the report), and now a steady increase through May.
Because of this, news outlets are reporting on cases of influenza and high demand for the influenza vaccine. Vulnerable populations, like the homeless, are being offered free influenza vaccinations in an attempt to lower the burden of the disease. Like in the United States, influenza vaccination in Australia is recommended for everyone above the age of six months, with groups most at risk for complications being especially targeted for immunization.