Flu season grips Australia again

The flu season in Australia in 2023 may be one of the greatest flu seasons on record, and physicians are concerned about the impact it will have on children.

You may have come across news articles that cautioned parents about the “kindy flu.” These may provide the wrong impression. The influenza virus that is circulating this year does not “target” children. However, children are more susceptible because there is a significant lack of vaccination within this age group.

Concerns have been raised over the fact that a lower percentage of youngsters have obtained their annual influenza vaccination in 2023 when compared to the rates from previous years. And because of this, they, along with the rest of the community, are at a higher risk of contracting influenza and its complications.

We are on course for a flu season in 2023 that will be comparable to the one in 2019, which was the largest on record in Australia. Around that time, there were more than 300,000 instances of influenza that were recorded.

At the time of this writing, we have recorded 107,941 cases of the influenza virus, although there are still months left in the flu season. Of these, 48,873 have been found in children under the age of 15, and 22,365 have been found in youngsters between the ages of five and nine.

Children have accounted for about eighty per cent of patients admitted to hospitals at sentinel surveillance sites ever since the beginning of the flu season in late April. Numerous children’s hospitals are reporting high rates of influenza-related hospitalizations among young patients.

A youngster who was only three years old has sadly passed away as a result of influenza complications in Perth.

These high case counts come after earlier in the epidemic when influenza case numbers were lower than they are now.

According to a variety of different metrics, the influenza strains that are circulating in 2023 do not appear to be any more dangerous than those that circulated in previous years.

The percentage of patients who are directly admitted to intensive care in hospitals (currently 7%) is comparable to the numbers seen in prior seasons.

The amount of people in the community who have flu-like illnesses and need to take time off from their regular duties is comparable to the national average.

There is also no evidence that the strains currently circulating are more likely to infect children or that children are more likely to infect others, as compared with the strains that were circulating in prior years.

The amount of younger people in Australia who do not get vaccinated against influenza is the only thing that is different from the years before the epidemic.

As of this point in the season, only 20% of children aged between six months and under five years old have been immunized; however, in 2020, that number will have nearly doubled to nearly 40%. In the age range of five to fifteen years old, 25% of those people were vaccinated in 2020, compared to just 12% today.

This gives us cause for concern.

The influenza infection is more likely to require medical treatment in young children, particularly those who are younger than five years old.

Although children who have preexisting medical issues, such as chronic illnesses of the heart, lungs, nervous and immune systems, are more likely to become infected with the flu, more than half of the children who are admitted to the hospital each year with flu-related symptoms are otherwise healthy. Children who were previously healthy can, unfortunately, pass away from the flu.

Concerns have been raised about potential for the influenza virus to make youngsters more susceptible to subsequent bacterial illnesses. Pneumococcal illness and invasive group A streptococcus are two examples of these conditions.

Children typically have a high viral load in their nasal secretions and continue to shed the virus for several days after an illness. In addition to this, they have lower hygiene standards, and they frequently cough and sputter over individuals who are nearest to them.

Children will, therefore rapidly spread the disease to their parents, grandparents, and younger siblings. Some persons, such as the elderly, the very young, members of First Nations communities, and those who have preexisting medical conditions such as heart, lung, kidney, or immune system difficulties, will be at a greater risk of becoming ill and requiring hospitalization than others.

Children who are in elementary school are the age group that spreads the flu across the community at the highest rate. By 2023, we anticipate that the age group from five to nine years old will account for the greatest number of cases in the community.

 

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