(Australian Associated Press)
Queensland is in the midst of its worst flu season on record with a prevalent strain not included in this year’s free vaccination program.
Around 15,000 cases of influenza have been reported in the state this year, an increase of roughly 5000 compared to the same time last year.
More than 10,000 of those involved the so-called Brisbane strain of Influenza B, a strain that was not included in this year’s vaccine.
The government-funded flu vaccine is offered for free to the elderly, the chronically ill and indigenous children.
It provides protection against Influenza A California, Influenza A Switzerland and Influenza B Phuket but not the Influenza B Brisbane strain.
According to Australian Medical Association Queensland chair of the Council of General Practice, Dr Richard Kidd, two-thirds of hospitalisations had been caused by the Brisbane strain in the past few weeks.
“One of the real challenges with the flu is that it keeps changing,” he told The Courier Mail newspaper.
“Any one person with the infection could produce one or two strains from the ones they’ve got because it mutates so quickly.”
More than 3000 flu cases have been reported in the past week.
Influenza Specialist Group chairman Alan Hampson has stressed an upgraded vaccine is required for the next flu season.
“Until we actually get a four-strain vaccine for general use in the population, we’re going to face this problem on an annual basis,” he told ABC Radio.
Queensland Health are holding a press conference at 1pm.