NZ’s flu season may have peaked

The number of people weekly testing positive for a flu virus has dropped from close to 1800 to over 500

The latest influenza surveillance shows a continuing drop in numbers of flu and flu-like illnesses around the country for the fourth week running.ESR surveillance for the week ended  August 4 shows decreasing numbers across the range of indicators used to monitor flu.

Nationally, GP consultations for flu-like illness dropped for the fourth week running, from a peak of over 2600 at the beginning of July to 850 for the past week. The number of people testing positive for a flu virus has dropped from close to 1800 to over 500 over the same period.

Rates of hospitalisation for severe respiratory illness, monitored by ESR in the Auckland region, have also dropped below the baseline seasonal level.

ESR Public Health Physician Sarah Jefferies says this year’s influenza season was early and appears to be declining earlier than usual.

She says the flu pattern in New Zealand is similar to Australia in some ways.

Australia saw an early start to the season, and a decline in numbers over the past month. They have also had flu A and B viruses circulating, although, with a higher proportion of A viruses circulating than in New Zealand.

While the figures indicate an early end to the flu season Dr Jefferies cautions it is still possible there might be a resurgence late in the flu season.

“Tracking the flu relies on a range of data streams which help build our understanding of the national picture. There are multiple factors which influence flu transmission, such as virus mutation, and when different groups of people become exposed to circulating viruses, which makes predicting flu activity during a season challenging.”

ESR will continue its flu surveillance, which will carry on through until September.