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Colds and flu statistics

2-minute read

Here are some facts and figures about colds and flu.


  • 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 (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

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