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Colds and flu statistics

Here are some facts and figures about colds and flu.

Colds

  • Adults usually get 2-4 colds every year. Children can get as many as 5-10 every year because they are not immune to many cold viruses.
  • More than 200 different viruses can cause colds.
  • Cold and flu symptoms are usually mild to moderately severe and are self-limiting.

Flu

  • Flu (influenza) can be caused by different strains, called A, B and C. The majority of disease in Australia is caused by A and B.
  • Influenza A can be found in many species, while Influenza B is essentially a human disease.
  • Only influenza A is known to have caused influenza pandemics.
  • It is estimated that each year influenza causes an average of 13,500 hospitalisations and more than 3,000 deaths among Australians aged over 50 years.
  • The highest rates of hospitalisation are seen in children under 5 and the elderly.
  • People with chronic conditions such as asthma, chronic lung disease, heart disease, blood disorders, liver and kidney disorders, endocrine disorders and obesity are more likely to develop complications from flu.
  • There were 3 influenza pandemics in the 20th century - the 1918 Spanish flu, the 1957-58 Asian flu and the 1968-70 Hong Kong flu.
  • There has been 1 flu pandemic so far in the 21st century - in 2009 from the H1N1 influenza virus. It was also known as swine flu.

Last reviewed: September 2016

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