Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Colds and flu statistics

2-minute read

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 symptoms are usually mild to moderately severe and usually get better without treatment.

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, which suggests more than double the number of deaths from motor vehicle accidents can be attributed to complications from influenza.The highest rates of hospitalisation are seen in children under 5 and the elderly.
  • 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: May 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Immunisation Coalition | Flu Facts - Immunisation Coalition

Do I have the common cold or influenza? Is there a correct way to sneeze? Get all the influenza facts and all your frequently asked questions here.

Read more on Immunisation Coalition website

Immunisation Coalition | Fact Sheets Archives - Immunisation Coalition

Flu Fact Sheet Facts for: Flu facts influenza

Read more on Immunisation Coalition website

Influenza | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

Influenza, commonly called the flu, is an infection caused by influenza A or B viruses

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Flu (influenza) vaccine

The flu vaccine triggers an immune response that can protect you from becoming ill if you are exposed to the influenza virus.

Read more on WA Health website

Bird flu (avian influenza) - myDr.com.au

Avian influenza, or bird flu, is an infectious disease caused by a type of influenza virus. Find out about outbreaks, symptoms, treatment and prevention.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo