For those who have suffered from a bad case of flu over the winter, it may be galling to note this flu season has been marked by a relatively low number of cases.

Furthermore, there had been expectations of a potentially severe season, given the moderate to high levels of flu-related hospitalisation and death seen at the beginning of 2018 in the Northern Hemisphere.

ESR says based on flu monitoring around New Zealand, at least 6300 people who visited a general practice and more than 1400 hospitalised patients would have been infected with influenza in New Zealand during the 2018 winter.

 In comparison, an estimated 14,000 GP visits and 2300 hospitalisations were related to flu during the 2017 winter.

ESR Group Leader, Intelligence, Dr Lisa Oakley says that each year of course many people are infected with the flu who do not seek care or even show symptoms.

In addition, this year’s flu season was later than expected. ESR scientists say although July is normally when flu infections peak, this year they have peaked in September.

And because of the delayed flu season, ESR, which manages the national influenza surveillance programme on behalf of the Ministry of Health, has extended its surveillance for the rest of October.

Dr Oakley says changes were made in the 2018 Southern Hemisphere seasonal flu vaccine to better cover some strains of influenza experience in the Northern Hemisphere.

“The vaccine covered four of the viruses circulating globally, including the Flu A(H1N1) that we are currently seeing most commonly in New Zealand.”.

Dr Oakley says a possible reason for the relatively low number of cases could be a good level of immunity to the circulating H1N1 strain.

ESR, manages the national influenza surveillance programme on behalf of the Ministry of Health, and has developed a dashboard to help the health sector’s management of the flu and provide a guide for people who are looking for information about the flu.

 For further information:

0800 ESR MEDIA (0800 377 633)

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Gael Woods