Flu season moderate, not 'mutant'

flu
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The media has misrepresented the current influenza season based on testing numbers rather than test positivity rates, generating unnecessary fear in the community, according to the authors of a letter published online by the Medical Journal of Australia.

Dr. Vicky Sheppeard, Director of the Communicable Diseases Branch at NSW Health, and colleagues wrote that so far the 2019 had been "moderate," in stark contrast to media headlines such as "Mutant flu crisis," and "Exclusive: Jab fail fears as killer strain takes hold" (Daily Telegraph, Saturday 6 July, 2019).

Due to a change from influenza diagnosis based on serology to rapid, highly discriminatory polymerase chain reaction testing, the number of tests skyrocketed in NSW from 29 232 in 2010 to 338 828 in just the first 6 months of 2019.

"We need to look to other indicators to assess the burden of influenza rather than the raw notification numbers," wrote Sheppeard and colleagues.

"One is the influenza test positivity rate.

"This was highest in 2017 (an acknowledged severe season due to ineffectiveness of the vaccine against the predominant influenza A [H3N2] strain) and is at a moderate level so far in 2019.

"Also important to monitor as indicators are hospital admissions of people presenting to emergency departments with influenza-like illness, and mortality from influenza and pneumonia, both of which also show 2019 to be a moderate severity to date," they wrote.

"Of course, influenza is a serious infection, with a mortality rate of around 1% in confirmed cases and most of the mortality burden affecting the vulnerable elderly.

"We are working to reduce the impact of influenza on the community; hopefully, we can achieve this without generating unfounded community concern."


Explore further

2018 to 2019 influenza season in U.S. was longest in 10 years

More information: Vicky Sheppeard et al. Record number of influenza tests in 2019, not a "mutant flu crisis", Medical Journal of Australia (2019). DOI: 10.5694/mja2.50321
Journal information: Medical Journal of Australia

Provided by Medical Journal of Australia
Citation: Flu season moderate, not 'mutant' (2019, September 9) retrieved 16 September 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-09-flu-season-moderate-mutant.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
1 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

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