August Update News

Is it Influenza or Coronavirus?

If you suspect that those flu-like symptoms you've been experiencing are actually something more serious, you could be right.

That's the message from some state officials and medical experts who say that what might seem to be normal winter sniffles might actually be coronavirus.

Near record low figures for influenza in 2020 mean it is far less likely the winter illness you've been struck down with is the traditional flu.

If you've got symptoms, even very mild symptoms, there's every chance that you've got COVID-19

It is essential that people who think they only have the flu come forward for testing.

If you have symptoms — respiratory symptoms — of cough, fever, a sore throat, a runny nose, headache, aches and pains, it is most likely you have COVID, not flu

So why have flu cases dropped so much?

This winter, no-one has died from influenza across Australia, which is a remarkable statistic.

The fortnightly Australian Influenza Surveillance Report, issued by the Department of Health, revealed no flu fatalities across June, July and the first part of August, amid a steep drop in the overall number of reported infections.

The influenza death toll for 2020 stood at just 36 from 21,005 cases on August 9 — the latest available figure — with the last fatalities coming in May.

By mid-August 2019 — a particularly bad year for flu — there were 486 deaths from 214,377 cases.

By observing strict social distancing and improved hand hygiene during the pandemic, Australians have reduced the transmission of the flu, and even the common cold.

Another factor was the increase in flu vaccinations, with the number between March and July this year up more than 2 million on the same period in 2019.

And the closure of schools probably also has a big part in the transmission of the flu in a normal season

But according to the latest available state influenza figures, albeit only until May 31, there were no Victorian flu deaths this year, with case numbers dropping by more than two-thirds.

More than 150 Victorians died from the illness in 2019.

With these numbers in mind, people are urged to be vigilant about getting tested for COVID-19, even if they thought their symptoms were something benign.

We have so little flu in Victoria today, because of physical distancing and all the other measures we are taking

Some of the information that received by the Health Department recently is that people are tending to think their illness is influenza

‘They're saying: 'It's OK I've got flu-like symptoms. I must have influenza. I don't need a COVID test.'

It is essential that people don't just think, 'It's influenza', or it's another respiratory virus, and come forward for testing.