Status:
Resolved
Health alert:
120007
Date Issued:
16 Jul 2012
Issued by:
Dr Rosemary Lester, Chief Health Officer, Victoria
Issued to:
Health professionals

Key messages

  • Influenza notifications in Victoria have almost doubled compared to the same time last year.
  • Ensure at risk groups receive timely vaccinations, including health care workers.
  • Encourage and adopt preventive personal hygiene measures.
  • Notify the department of all laboratory confirmed cases.

What is the current situation with influenza?

More than 10,000 cases of influenza have been reported nationally year-to-date. In Victoria there have been a total of 1,357 cases of influenza year-to-date. This compares to 719 cases for the same period in 2011 as this season has arrived earlier.

Key prevention activities

These include:

  • Timely vaccination for those most at risk of severe disease
  • Vaccination of health care workers, especially those in high risk settings
  • Hand hygiene and respiratory/cough etiquette
  • Early treatment for people at risk of severe disease
  • Symptomatic individuals should not attend school, childcare, work or public gatherings

Immunisation is the best way to protect against influenza

The vaccine is strongly recommended and free for anyone in the following categories:

  • Everyone 65 years of age and over
  • Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
  • Indigenous people 15 years of age and over
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • Any person 6 months of age and over with a chronic condition predisposing to severe influenza illness that requires regular medical follow-up or hospitalisation such as:
    • cardiac disease (excluding simple hypertension)
    • chronic respiratory disease including severe asthmatics
    • chronic renal or liver disease
    • diabetes mellitus
    • chronic metabolic diseases
    • immunosuppression (including cancers, HIV infection, immunosuppressive drugs)
    • chronic neurological conditions

Public health focus

Public health actions focus on outbreaks in high-risk settings such as:

  • Hospitals and other health care facilities
  • Special schools
  • Residential and aged care facilities
  • Health care workers in high-risk settings

These settings are encouraged to report suspected respiratory outbreaks to the Department of Health. DH can then provide support to manage the outbreak, including advising testing to confirm or rule out influenza.

Patient management

Patient management including testing, use of antivirals and personal protective equipment should be as per standard seasonal influenza management and at the clinicians' discretion. This applies equally for influenza strains identified as H1N1 pandemic strain or other circulating strains such as H3N2 or influenza B. Treatment is generally thought to be of greatest benefit if commenced early (ideally within 48 hours of symptom onset), and if targeted to people at highest risk of complications.

Notification

Laboratory confirmed influenza in notifiable to the Department of Health. Suspected respiratory outbreaks in high-risk settings are also recommended to be communicated to DH.

For notification and for further information please contact Communicable Disease Prevention and Control at DH on 1300 651 160.