IT'S TIME: Wide Bay Public Health Unit's Dr. Margaret Young is urging the public to get vaccinated for flue season.
IT'S TIME: Wide Bay Public Health Unit's Dr. Margaret Young is urging the public to get vaccinated for flue season. Alistair Brightman

FLU WARNING: Double the danger as Coast rates soar

THE Wide Bay's flu season has started early as figures reveal numbers more than three times higher than usual.

In the year to date, Wide Bay Hospital and Health Services has recorded 459 lab-confirmed influenza cases, including 60 hospital admissions and seven patients needing intensive care.

Public health physician doctor Margaret Young said typically low numbers of flu throughout summer and early autumn had been twice the average for the area before spiking three weeks ago.

"They have continued to increase so the flu season has started, we went from around 20 a week to 60 a week, to 80 a week," she said.

"Flu season across Wide Bay would normally start in late June or early July and it's started in early June this year which is a bit unusual."

Dr Young said trends differed across Queensland and although case numbers were expected to continue to increase, the timing or size of the peak was uncertain.

Of the notified laboratory-confirmed cases, Dr Young explained less than 10 per cent had been admitted to hospital, indicating the severity of cases was "reasonably typical".

Health Minister Steven Miles yesterday announced the anti-viral drug Tamiflu would be made available to nursing homes across the state.

Dr Young said the drug would lessen the severity of symptoms for a specific outbreaks, however, was not a "silver bullet" and would act in conjunction with other preventative measures.

Vaccination, of which there is still ample stock and which is available from GPs or pharmacies, was the best protection against the flu.

"If you haven't done so already, now is the time to get vaccinated against flu," Dr Young said.

"We've done a few checks and can confirm there is ample stock of vaccine for eligible Queenslanders under the National Immunisation Program.

"We also understand, from the Pharmacy Guild, that there is no shortage of the flu vaccine in the private market, but stocks may vary between pharmacies so I recommend calling ahead."

Dr Young also urges anyone who is sick to stay home, rest and recover.

"Flu spreads really easily, so if you're sick, don't go to school or uni, don't go to work - stay home and be sure to wash your hands regularly and cough into a tissue," she said.

Free government-funded vaccines are available to eligible Queenslanders, including:

. all children aged six months to less than five years

. pregnant women during any stage of pregnancy

. persons 65 years of age or older

. all Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people 6 months of age and older

. persons six months of age or older who have certain medical conditions which increase the risk of influenza disease complications.