For two years there were hardly any flu waves due to the corona measures. After the easing, the influenza virus threatens to make a comeback in many places. In Australia, the numbers are increasing massively.

The influenza virus had a break almost everywhere for two years due to the strict corona measures. Special distance rules and the obligation to wear a mask prevented the spread.

But now the authorities in Australia are reporting a strong wave of flu in many parts of the country as part of the easing. Winter is just beginning in the southern hemisphere – and the early and violent outbreak could be a portent of what to expect in Europe during the cold season.

There are free flu shots

From January to November 2021, just 598 laboratory-reported influenza cases were reported Down Under, according to figures from the Australian Department of Health. From January to May 22, 2022, there were already more than 38,700 cases. More than 26,000 of these were recorded between May 9 and 22 – showing how steep the curve is rising.

The eastern states of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland are particularly badly affected. All three regions announced free flu vaccinations so that as many citizens as possible can be immunized.

“The flu season this year is very bad and comparable to what we had in 2017,” said Queensland Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk. “We must now respond with a pre-emptive strike and ensure that we take preventive action.” The 2017 flu epidemic was particularly severe: more than 1,200 people died from the virus in Australia at the time.

High number of unreported cases of influenza

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the worst flu epidemic in decades was rampant in Germany in 2017/2018. It is estimated that around 25,000 people died.

In contrast, according to RKI data, the last two flu seasons were extremely subdued: After the pandemic-related failure of the contagion wave in winter 2020/21, the number of cases in the 2021/22 season did not match previous times. Since October 2021, a total of around 14,400 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza have been reported, according to the RKI Influenza Working Group in its most recent report for the week from May 16th to 22nd. In the case of influenza, however, a high number of unreported cases is generally assumed.

What is striking this year is that, according to the report, influenza viruses were increasingly spreading among children even after the Easter holidays. The RKI experts have seen a slightly increased influenza activity since the week of April 25th.