5 June 2012
Health authorities in NSW and Queensland are warning a new strain of flu will likely circulate this winter, and they are urging at-risk groups to get vaccinated.
Pregnant women and those with chronic medical conditions in particular are being encouraged by NSW Health to get vaccinated now, said the director of the Centre for Health Protection, Dr Jeremy McAnulty.
“The new strain of flu is a type of influenza [H3N2] which looks likely to replace the pandemic flu that emerged in 2009 as the dominant virus strain. This may mean that people in older age groups, some of whom had some natural protection against the pandemic strain, may be at greater risk,” Dr McAnulty said.
Already they were seeing a rise in activity related to this new strain, he said.
Dr McAnulty said vaccination during pregnancy should be considered routine. He also said parents of children older than 6 months – who are at higher risk of severe flu – should talk to their doctor to arrange a vaccine.
“People who don’t get vaccinated not only place themselves at risk of the flu and developing potentially serious illness, but also put others at risk of infection. It takes time for the vaccine to work, so now is the time to get vaccinated,” he said.
Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said even at this early stage there were significantly more cases of H3N2 than H1N1. The state is also seeing more cases of influenza B than in the last few seasons.
Victoria Health is also encouraging people to get the vaccine but hasn’t highlighted the particular strain because it is included in this year’s seasonal influenza vaccine.
In October last year the Australian Influenza Vaccine Committee adopted a WHO recommendation to include the H1N1, H3N2 and B strains in the 2012 influenza vaccine.
Last Reviewed: 05 June 2012