News and Views

Flu season is here

MedicalDirector says it’s not too late to vaccinate.

Nine out of 10 people who were diagnosed in winter 2015 with influenza (commonly known as the flu) did not have the influenza vaccine. The message is clear – get vaccinated!

The data1 was captured by MedicalDirector’s General Practice Research Network (GPRN), a nationally representative cohort of GPs that provide quality de-identified patient-based research and insight into Australia’s health issues. According to the data, around 140,000 Australians presented to their local GP with influenza in both 2015 and 2014; significantly worse flu seasons than 2013 which saw 95,000 flu visits.

“The past two flu seasons have been particularly tough. As we head into the winter months, the best way to avoid the flu virus is to get a vaccination from your GP,” advises MedicalDirector chief medical officer, Dr Andrew Magennis.

Unlike the common cold, which many people mistake as the flu, influenza is much more serious and can last for up to two weeks.

“The flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications such as pneumonia, chest infections and bronchitis, which can lead to hospitalisation, particularly in older age groups,” says Dr Magennis.

While MedicalDirector’s data shows that the influenza vaccine is highly successful, it can take a few weeks to take effect; this is the case for some of the seven percent of patients who received their shot and caught the flu.

According to Dr Andrew Magennis, some Australians believe the myth that you can catch the flu from the vaccination itself, and avoid getting vaccinated.

“There is no live virus in the flu shot, so it is not possible to catch the flu from the vaccination. What may happen is you might pick up a cold, and mistake it for the flu,” says Dr Andrew Magennis.

According to MedicalDirector, over 60,000 Australians were diagnosed by their GP in 2015 with an influenza-like illness, such as an upper respiratory tract infection. These illnesses are much milder than influenza, only lasting for three to four days in most cases.

“With the warmer start to winter in 2016, influenza cases have been delayed. The general public should not become complacent about this contagious condition,” says Dr Magennis.

“Our data clearly shows that the best way to keep yourself, family members, friends and colleagues from getting influenza, is to have the influenza vaccine. And the sooner the better,” concludes Dr Magennis.

About the data:

The flu data was collected via MedicalDirector’s General Practice Research Network (GPRN), a nationally representative cohort of GPs that provide quality de-identified patient-based research. Since 1999, more than 1,100 GPs have contributed to a longitudinal patient database containing more than 44 million encounters of more than four million patients.
Quick flu facts:

  • The total number of influenza GP visits in 2015 was just over 140,000, similar to the 2014 season which saw 138,000 visits. Both 2015 and 2014 had greater numbers compared with the 2013 winter where 95,000 visits were recorded
  • Just seven per cent of patients with the flu in 2015 had received a flu shot
  • June to August is peak influenza season in Australia, with August seeing the highest GP visits
  • School-aged children (aged 5 to 19) were most likely to be diagnosed with flu-like symptoms (not the flu) in 2015
  • Elderly age groups (over 65) are the predominant group to receive the influenza Vaccine in 2015 from a GP (60 per cent of total influenza vaccine administrations by GPs)

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