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Flu trends in Australia

4-minute read

Influenza, or 'the flu', is a highly contagious respiratory illness. It's a common cause of hospitalisation and leads to thousands more GP visits every year. Many people die annually from complications of the flu in Australia.

While you can catch the flu at any time, it's more likely to happen in the colder months of the year (April to October). The flu season typically peaks in August, but laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza have been higher than usual so far this year — as have calls about flu-related symptoms to the healthdirect helpline.

Early signs of the flu can include cough, sore throat, sinusitis or fever.

Currently there is a moderate level of flu activity in Australia. The flu vaccine and good hygiene are still the best ways of protection against the flu.

Flu-related calls to healthdirect

Healthdirect Australia collects data based on flu-related calls to the healthdirect helpline (1800 022 222). This information is used to publish the flu 'trend' graph, below.

The blue line in the graph shows flu-related calls to the helpline for the current year, in proportion to all calls. The grey shaded area in the graph shows the range of flu-related calls between 2013 and 2018.

If the blue line is above the grey area, then this may indicate an increased risk of colds and flu in the community.

This graph contains data up to 19 December 2019.
It shows the percentage (%) of influenza-like illness calls made to healthdirect.

Flu trend report for health professionals

Health professionals can use this interactive report to get more data on flu-related calls to the healthdirect helpline, from January 2012 to the present.

The influenza syndromic surveillance report is updated twice a week between April and October, and less frequently during the warmer months.

7 ways to fight the flu

Follow these easy tips to help prevent the spread of flu.

Get a flu shot

Wash your hands

In addition to vaccination, good hygiene is one of the best ways to help prevent flu and other illnesses from spreading. Wash your hands regularly.

Cover coughs and sneezes

Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

Bin your tissues

Throw used tissues in the bin immediately.

Avoid sharing

Don't share cups, plates, cutlery and towels with other people, if you can.

Keep surfaces clean

Clean surfaces such as your keyboard, phone and door handles regularly to get rid of germs.

Self-care at home

In most cases, you can treat mild flu or cold symptoms at home.

NOTE: Antibiotics won't help

Is it the flu or a cold?

Click on this handy infographic to help determine whether you have the flu.

Learn more about the flu and the common cold here.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2019

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