Bad news from Down Under: The 2019 flu season sucked. Big time. According to numbers from the Australian government, there were over 250,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza by the end of September, making it their worst flu season on record.
Until this year, 2017 held the title for Australia's "worst flu season ever," with over 229,000 confirmed cases of influenza reported by the end of October.
To make matters worse, the Aussie flu season started early and lasted longer than usual, resulting in a record number of summer cases. Oh, and it's still going.
You may be wondering, "How is this bad news for me?" (Aside from the fact that you're a kind, caring person who's invested in the well-being of others, of course.)
The answer: The flu season in the Southern Hemisphere can be an indication of what's in store for us Northern Hemisphere folks. A bad outbreak down under can spell trouble for us as we head into our winter.
"Australia's flu season is not an exact predictor, but our season tends to look a lot like it," says Thad Mick, our VP of Pharmaceutical Programs & Diagnostic Services. "Based on the Australian data, I would expect that it's going to be another lousy flu year in the US."
That said, a lot can change: The flu virus can mutate, so some strains might pop up in the Northern Hemisphere that didn't occur in the south. The flu vaccine is also slightly different in each hemisphere—so ours may be more or less effective than it was in Australia.
Even if our flu season winds up looking different than Australia’s, the vaccine is still your best shot at avoiding the (potentially deadly!) infection. And while it might not guarantee 100% protection, it does lower your chances of developing severe flu-related issues, like pneumonia.
For maximum protection, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting vaccinated for the flu by the end of October.