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First detailed analysis of influenza sentinel surveillance Friday, 19 June 2009

Friday, 19 June 2009


The Department of Human Services today released figures showing 2,344 Victorians had been notified with laboratory confirmed influenza to June 15 this year.

“And of these cases, 1,230 are known to be H1N1 Influenza 09 or human swine flu,” acting Chief Health Officer Dr Rosemary Lester said.

“The release of these figures coincides with the first analysis of sentinel surveillance data from Victoria’s state-wide system of General Practice clinics.

“It is significant that the onset of the flu season appears to be earlier this year and the number of laboratory cases has risen quickly.

“The information we have currently points to the potential for this winter to be one of the biggest we’ve had in recent years for flu activity, so it is important that all Victorians remain vigilant and protect themselves.

“Of the patients presenting to our 80 general practitioners in sentinel clinics with influenza-like illness, 24 per cent have tested positive for influenza. Of those, 18 per cent are H1N1 Influenza 09.

“We know that other influenza A viruses are circulating - as well as other viruses which can cause respiratory illness such as picornavirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

“Although there is a significant amount of influenza-like illness in the community, only a small proportion is H1N1. The latest information confirms the presence of these other respiratory viruses - as we would expect at this time of year.

“The high number of positive tests for both H1N1 Influenza 09 and seasonal influenza reflect the increased testing being carried out in the community.

“Having an excellent public health reference laboratory such as the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory enables us to continue to track the spread of the virus.

“Through VIDRL we had the capacity to undertake a very high number of tests. At the outset, we tested all suspected cases for a much longer time than some overseas countries, like the USA.

“So, in some ways Victoria has been a victim of its own testing success. We have a very thorough testing system for all infectious diseases and are at the forefront of detecting swine flu in the community.

“We also know that the mild nature of the virus means that many cases have not even come to medical attention at all, let alone be tested. This means that silent spread through the community was always possible.

“The notifications and surveillance data mean that Victoria’s influenza-like illness activity is now in the higher than expected range and will continue at this level for some time to come – perhaps the rest of the winter flu season.

“We appreciate the efforts of our general practice colleagues who contribute to this surveillance system,” Dr Lester said.

Influenza-like illness data for week ending June 14, 2009
Source: Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory

Health advice:
Personal hygiene remains vital. We should all follow flu season hygiene procedures, such as regular hand washing, covering nose and mouth if sneezing and coughing, and staying at home if sick.
Follow any instructions by health professionals on quarantining or limiting social contact;
People who feel ill with influenza-like symptoms should present to their doctor for the best possible advice. It is always wise to call ahead, or to alert the clinic staff when you arrive.

For the most up-to-date information:
Visit www.health.vic.gov.au
Call the Influenza Hotline on 180 2007 or
Call Nurse-on-Call on 1300 606 024 – for expert health information and advice (24 hours, 7 days)
Follow us on Twitter - www.twitter.com/VicGovHealth

Media inquiries:
Bram Alexander, Human Services Media Unit, (03) 9096 8803, mobile 0412 260 811

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Last Updated: 19 June 2009
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