What’s up d̵a̵n̵g̵e̵r̵ Flu?

Influenza is still hammering Australia with unseasonable disrespect. Is this just more testing for flu viruses, or is it a new variant virus?

Australia-wide confirmed influenza cases using data from the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System, (NNDSS)[1]

January in Australia is continuing 2018’s out-of-character trend to be the biggest summer Flu season on record.

January 2019 is about to pass 2017 and become the second biggest flu January on record. It’s also just over 1,000 cases behind 2018’s previous record-breaking January total.

Why is it so…?


It’s possible that more rapid result molecular testing announced in prior years is finally become more frequently used during summer. We may simply be getting a realistic glimpse of how many summer illnesses are related to flu infection. Without those ‘in the know’ putting these numbers into the public domain though, we don’t have anything to go by.

We also can’t rule out a variant flu virus emerging. A virus that vaccination or previous infection hasn’t totally protected us against. That may not be entirely far-fetched given that new flu viruses can often emerge from the warmer climes at any stage. A variant doesn’t necessarily mean a deadly virus; just one that gets around and may cause milder illness.

In summary, and to be quite frank:

  • it can be ridiculously bloody hard to find out what’s happening with the flu
  • if you give a damn about flu outside of “flu season” (an archaic concept) then tough luck!
  • if this was a new variant flu virus, I can only guess at what point the public would get to find out about it and how. Australia has been seeing months of high flu case numbers, so presumably, we aren’t seeing high rates of disease/hospitalisation or something that would put this strange pattern on the right radar (supporting that it’s a test-driven phenomenon perhaps?).
  • if you depend on information to be published in the public domain – you have to wait for occasional mainstream media reports. And you then rely on them to be correct.

And that just annoys the crap out of me.


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2 thoughts on “What’s up d̵a̵n̵g̵e̵r̵ Flu?”

  1. H1N1 is widely circulating in Asia, Europe and North America, so it would not be totally unexpected that some imported cases sparked a mild unseasonal epidemic even in the Southern Hemisphere. Firm conclusions on new H1 clades have not been made even though India, for example, a couple of years ago experienced a severe epidemic across the sub-continent. Of course, a reassortant (H1/H3) might be the culprit, as you seem to suggest. An unsettling cluster of pneumonia cases observed in N Italy last September left many questions unanswered, and influenza viruses of animal origin or their reassortants haven’t been taken into consideration (for public opinion sake, I suspect). I think some of the recent isolates genetic sequences (partial or full) of clinical samples collected in Australia have been deposited in a shared archive so it could not be difficult to find something different. Severe cases of influenza (both H1 & H3) are currently being reported in southern China and Hong Kong, Macau, in pediatric population, with SARI and sometimes encephalitis/encephalopathies, that are not uncommon features in the area especially when high enteroviral activity is concurrently reported.

    1. Thanks for this. Yes it could be travel related but that probably applies every year. Flu being seasonal is also related to environmental conditions that make transmission more effective. Summer here is not usually that time or the provider of those conditions. So I’m particularly wondering about what has changed this summer. But flu communication like other aspects of flu analysis, is sort of stuck in the past.

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