Pandemics are highly contagious viruses that are easily spread and can cause severe illness and even loss of life. The most common form of pandemic in Australia is influenza, otherwise known as the flu. Many people die annually from complications of the flu.
Queensland’s influenza season
Although pandemics can break out any time of year, influenza or the ‘flu’ is most prominent during the colder months from May to October.
What is pandemic influenza?
Pandemic influenza occurs when a new type of the flu virus emerges to which people have little immunity. Influenza comes in waves that can last for months or years. The flu is spread easily, mainly through sneezing and coughing. A person can spread the flu to others one to two days before they become unwell and can be infectious for up to a week.
Understand your risk
People with chronic conditions such as asthma, chronic lung disease, heart disease, blood disorders, liver and kidney disorders, endocrine disorders and obesity are more likely to develop complications from flu.
The highest rates of hospitalisation are seen in children under five and the elderly.
Symptoms in infants and children
Symptoms in children under the age of 5 can be difficult to recognise and can change rapidly. Queensland Health advises that the following common signs and symptoms of influenza in infants and children can include:
Symptoms in the elderly
The elderly do not always have flu-like symptoms such as fever and may present with symptoms such as increased levels of confusion or worsening of pre-existing medical condition. Queensland Health advises that the following common signs and symptoms of influenza in the elderly can include:
Damage and impact
It is estimated that each year influenza causes an average of 13,500 hospitalisations and more than 3,000 deaths among Australians aged over 50 years.
Cases of the flu has a broader impact on the community due to loss of work time, reduced productivity of patients and care givers, and increased use of medical resources including hospital beds.
Steps to reduce the impact of influeza
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