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.
Currently there is a high level of flu activity in Australia. The flu vaccine and good hygiene are 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.
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.
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
Learn more about the flu and the common cold here.
Last reviewed: May 2019