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The Canberra Times

Canberra flu cases double, already higher than pre-pandemic years

Flu cases in the nation's capital so far this year are already higher than the same period in most pre-pandemic years, after cases more than doubled in a fortnight.

This will place further pressure on Canberra's overwhelmed health care system, with elective surgeries already needing to be postponed due to demand.

A new report has revealed there had been 97 cases of influenza reported to ACT Health in the fortnight to May 1. There has been a total of 134 reported cases of flu across the territory this year.

Canberra escaped large scale flu outbreaks in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions and the closure of international borders.

But the number of flu cases reported so far in Canberra this year is already at a higher level than it was over the same period in 2017 and 2018.

Canberra Hospital is seeing an influx of patients with respiratory illnesses. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

The number of cases over a similar period in 2019 was 363 but that was a horror flu season for the capital with close to 4000 cases.

The age group break down for the cases in 2022 are:

  • 0-4 years: 5
  • 5-9 years: 3
  • 10-19 years: 46
  • 20-64 years: 72
  • 65+ years: 8

Territory health authorities are braced for a winter surge in COVID and influenza cases and have been undertaking planning to manage with the demand.

There has been a record number of COVID patients in Canberra hospitals over recent days and this is likely to worsen over the colder months.

People with other respiratory illnesses, including influenza, are already building up across the territory's public hospitals.

Flu cases in the capital tend to peak in August.

But staffing shortages continue to plague Canberra's public hospitals which is compounding the situation.

Many of the shortages are due to staff illness but experienced staff are also leaving high pressure settings due to burnout and the hospital is having troubles attracting an appropriate skills mix to manage with the load.

Elective surgeries are being postponed at Calvary and Canberra Hospital as a result of the pressures.