Online influenza tracking is already in full swing, with illness rates estimated to be two to three times higher than normal.
A joint initiative of the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Population Health and the Hunter Medical Research Institute, the system, named FluTracking, allows the public to sign up to take a weekly survey about flu symptoms, which only takes a few seconds to complete.
It usually launches in May, however, was already in use last month as a result of high flu rates across the country.
“Influenza-like illness in March this year was much higher than normal – it was higher than the peak activity in winter 2018,” program founder and coordinator Dr Craig Dalton said.
“Laboratory reports suggest influenza rates between January and April this year are two to three times higher than previous years.
“While it’s impossible to identify the exact cause of spiked flu activity in autumn, one possible factor could be high rates of influenza in travellers returning from the northern hemisphere.”
More than 40,000 Australians participate and last year the tracker also expanded to New Zealand.
“We rely on data from members of the public to help determine the onset of influenza and better understand the burden and severity of the disease,” Dr Dalton said.
“The survey simply asks whether a respondent has had a cough or fever in the past week and whether they have had the annual flu vaccine.
“The information captured paints a valuable picture for health professionals, and the community, of flu outbreak zones communicated through a weekly report and interactive map showing affected areas.”
For more information, visit flutracking.net