Confirmed flu cases in 2019 already greater than 2018
Written by Dr Linda Dreyer
Although influenza and influenza-like illnesses typically peak in August, Australia has experienced a higher than normal rate during the 2019 summer and autumn. Health experts are warning Australia is on track for a killer flu season, with numbers showing three times as many people have been diagnosed with the virus so far this year, compared to the same period in previous years.
In March this year, more than 10,000 people were diagnosed with the flu. As of 5th June, there had already been a total of 69,380 laboratory confirmed notifications of influenza in 2019. Last year there were 58,570 confirmed influenza cases in Australia. Although we have already surpassed the total number for 2018, laboratory confirmed cases may not show the full extent of influenza as most people still do not get tested.
Influenza virus inside human lungs
Who is at risk of complications?
- Elderly people
- Children under 6 months old
- Pregnant women including up to 2 weeks post-partum
- People with chronic conditions or immunosuppression
Why test for respiratory virus?
Other respiratory viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), human metapneumovirus and parainfluenza Confirmed flu cases in 2019 already greater than 2018 viruses have been associated with severe lower respiratory tract infection in children. There has also been a resurgence of RSV in the elderly due to waning immunity. It is not always easy to distinguish these infections based on a clinical picture. The multiplex PCR to diagnose influenza and respiratory viral infections allows the clinician to have a quick and accurate diagnosis. This will enable the clinician to instigate earlier targeted treatment, avoiding inappropriate antibiotic therapy.
Respiratory Pathogen PCR Testing at Clinical Labs
Our rapid respiratory viral assay is performed daily, 7 days a week during flu season. Our increased assay specificity and sensitivity improves the accuracy and speed of diagnosis.
Testing available in VIC and WA.
|Turnaround Time||24hrs – Urgent||>24 hrs|
|What to Request:||Respiratory Viral Screen/Multiplex PCR||Extended Multiplex PCR|
Testing available in NSW, SA & NT.
|Turnaround Time||<24hrs||24hrs – Urgent||>24 hrs|
|What to Request:||Rapid Flu||Respiratory Viral Screen||Multiplex PCR|
Additional clinical tests recommended based on relevant symptoms:
- If you suspect a lower respiratory infection then the
appropriate sample is sputum for MCS
- If the patient presents with pharyngitis symptoms then
obtain a swab from the throat for culture
How to Order PCR Tests:
- To assist the laboratory during flu outbreaks, please limit testing to suspected pathogens to ensure rapid result delivery (see tables above)
- Samples required:
o Nose/throat or nasopharyngeal swab(s) (must use dry flocked swab) or
o Nasopharyngeal/tracheal aspirates or
- Cost: Medicare bulk billing available and subject to Medicare guidelines and criteria
About the author
Dr Linda Dreyer
Qualifications: MBChB, MMED (Path) (South Africa), FRCPA
Areas Of Interest: Antimicrobials, infection control and molecular diagnostic assays in contemporary clinical microbiology
Specialities: Infection Control, Microbiology
Phone: (03) 9538 6777
Dr Linda Dreyer received her Master’s degree in Clinical Microbiology (MMed (Path)) from the University of Pretoria in 2006. She worked as a consultant for the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) in Pretoria until January 2008 and also sat on the Infection Control Committee and the Antimicrobial Stewardship Committee of the Pretoria Academic Hospital. She came to Melbourne and joined Australian Clinical Labs (formerly Healthscope Pathology) in 2008 as a Senior Registrar and obtained Fellowship of The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (FRCPA) in 2010.
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Phone: 1300 134 111
Dr Stella Pendle completed her specialist training in Pathology (Microbiology) at Royal North Shore Hospital and ICPMR Westmead. She then moved to Symbion Laverty Pathology where she worked for four years as a Clinical Microbiologist. In 2009, she joined Pathology NSW as the supervising pathologist in charge of the microbiology, infectious serology and molecular diagnostics departments. She has continued in this role after the company merged with Australian Clinical Labs (formerly Healthscope Pathology).
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Areas Of Interest: Information Technology and Pathology informatics
Speciality: General Pathology
Phone: (08) 8205 5604
Dr Travis Brown obtained his MBBS from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. After completing two years as a junior doctor at St Vincent Hospital in Melbourne, he undertook Anatomical Pathology training at Ballarat Base Hospital and the Royal Melbourne Hospital before transferring to General Pathology Specialty training with Healthscope Pathology (now Australian Clinical Labs) in Clayton,
Melbourne. Dr Brown completed General Pathology Specialty training in November 2016 and now works at Australian Clinical Labs in Wayville, Adelaide.
Dr Sudha Pottumarthy-Boddu
Qualifications: MBBS, FRCPA, D(ABMM)
Lab: Osborne Park
Areas Of Interest: Antimicrobial susceptibility trends and molecular methods in the diagnosis of infectious diseases
Specialities: Clinical Microbiologist, Microbiology
Phone: 1300 367 674
Dr Sudha Pottumarthy-Boddu completed her Pathology/Microbiology Fellowship training with the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia. She comes to us from Houston, Texas, where she was Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Texas, School of Medicine. She was also the Technical Director of the Clinical Laboratory Services at the Houston Department of Health and Human Services.