Domestic travel key to distribution of flu across Australia

January 12, 2018, Macquarie University
Credit: William Brawley

New scientific research on the spread of flu across Australia has revealed that all major cities appear to experience outbreaks of flu around the same time each year, published today in PLOS Pathogens.

The research has also shown that commuting to work is less important than long distance domestic travel in looking at the overall spread of flu throughout Australia.

The researchers used influenza surveillance data collected between 2007-2016 from more than 2500 postcodes to map the spread of the across Australia.

The results reveal remarkable synchrony in right across the country – and that outbreaks are particularly synchronous in 'big flu' years, when the is somewhat novel and there is little immunity in the population.

"We have shown that influenza enters Australia multiple times from the global population – this highlights the highly globalised world in which we live. It spreads almost instantaneously throughout Australia – likely driven by both highly domestically connected cities. During the 2009 swine flu pandemic for example, we found that all postcodes experienced outbreaks at the same time," said Dr. Jemma Geoghegan from the Department of Biological Sciences.

Short-range commuter transmission has not played a major role in epidemic spread due to the apparent lack of radial virus dispersal observed in Australia, but rather domestic travel accounts for this dispersal.

"The Sydney-Melbourne flight route is the third busiest flight route in the world, as well as having multiple entries from other countries from around the world. In the event of a , we really need coordinated surveillance right across Australia, especially in the major centres," said Dr. Jemma Geoghegan from the Department of Biological Sciences.

This study is the first study of the spread of influenza virus across Australia, which provides a unique perspective of the spread of flu across a continent spanning tropical and temperate climates.

The data used by the researchers is laboratory confirmed, meaning that they have been confirmed to be the virus that causes the flu – many other studies use only 'influenza-like' illness data, which is estimated to be flu virus only 30 per cent of the time.

"That outbreaks of flu to reach all around the same time highlights the importance of a highly coordinated public health response right across Australia, especially in the event of the emergence of a novel virus," concluded Dr. Geoghegan.

In light of the speed with which novel viruses spread, the most populous cities experience synchronised epidemics, and these observations may be used to inform prospective pandemic planning efforts both in Australia and in other highly urbanised localities.

Explore further: The U.S. may be in for a tough flu season—4 questions answered

More information: Jemma L. Geoghegan et al. Continental synchronicity of human influenza virus epidemics despite climactic variation, PLOS Pathogens (2018). DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1006780

Related Stories

The U.S. may be in for a tough flu season—4 questions answered

December 20, 2017
This year, Australia suffered a record number of flu infections. This has some experts concerned that the U.S. will suffer a harsh flu season as well. Irena Kenneley, associate professor of nursing at Case Western Reserve ...

Three new noroviruses cause gastro outbreaks across Australia

September 13, 2016
UNSW scientists have identified three new strains of highly contagious norovirus that are responsible for a major new epidemic of viral gastroenteritis that has affected hundreds of thousands of Australians over winter.

Tracking a moving target

July 15, 2011
The influenza pandemic that began in Mexico in April 2009 rapidly spread throughout the world and arrived in Japan one month later. Now, a research team led by Toshihisa Ishikawa at the RIKEN Omics Science Center in Yokohama ...

New analysis of 'swine flu' pandemic conflicts with accepted views on how diseases spread (w/ Video)

July 1, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—New analysis of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic in the US shows that the pandemic wave was surprisingly slow, and that its spread was likely accelerated by school-age children

Recommended for you

Deadly Rift Valley fever: New insight, and hope for the future

July 19, 2018
Health control measures alone could be ineffective in the long term fight against the deadly Rift Valley fever which affects both humans and animals, a new study in the journal PNAS reports.

New guidelines to diagnose, manage rare endocrine disorders

July 19, 2018
International guidelines have been published for the first time to help doctors around the globe diagnose and manage patients with a very rare set of endocrine diseases known as pseudohypoparathyroidism and its related disorders, ...

Overuse of antibiotics not what the doctor ordered

July 19, 2018
With increased use of antibiotics worldwide linked to growing antibiotic resistance, a world-first study co-authored by a QUT researcher has highlighted the growing impact of non-prescription supply of antibiotics in community ...

Alcohol-related cirrhosis deaths skyrocket in young adults

July 18, 2018
Deaths from cirrhosis rose in all but one state between 1999-2016, with increases seen most often among young adults, a new study shows.

Hidden blood in feces may signal deadly conditions

July 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Even if it's not visible to the naked eye, blood in the stool can be serious—a sign of a potentially fatal disease other than colon cancer, new research suggests.

Childhood abuse linked to greater risk of endometriosis, study finds

July 17, 2018
Endometriosis, a painful condition that affects one in 10 reproductive-age women in the U.S., has been linked to childhood physical and sexual abuse, according to findings published today in the journal Human Reproduction.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.