‘Influenza has struck early and has been far more deadly in 2019 than previous years’, says Dr Sandeep Bhagat. He says, ‘the terrible tragedy is that it is preventable, going on to give prevention tips and common sense precautions.
Dr Sandeep Bhagat is a well-known Melbourne doctor and a frequent guest on SBS Punjabi talkback.
Alarmed at the number of confirmed cases of Influenza already reported in 2019 he says, “We’ve already seen a five-fold increase in reported cases this year.”
“Last year in 2018, a total of 58,000 cases of flu were reported in all of Australia. This year, even before winter has set in, we’ve had 52,000 cases confirmed by a swab test.” It is estimated that there could be approximately four unconfirmed cases for every one that is confirmed via lab testing.
Dr Bhagat adds, “Annually in Australia, there usually are 3,000 deaths due to Influenza A or B, but this year, virologists expect the figure to cross 4,000. Overall, it is expected that 2 million Australians will contract the flu this year.”
He rues the fact that these deaths are preventable, and yet, have risen at an alarming rate this year.
“Last year around this time (in May), there were no reported deaths due to the flu in Victoria and in 2017, there was one death. But this year, we’ve already seen 26 deaths, which includes children in the toll.”
"These are thousands of deaths we’re talking about annually, and everyone must take precautions,” says Dr Bhagat.
Who is most at risk?
According the Dr Sandeep Bhagat, the following groups are most at risk of getting the flu and need to actively take steps to avoid it:
- People aged 65 and over;
- Children aged 6 months - 5 years;
- Pregnant women;
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at any age group;
- People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and more.
He said the government provides a free vaccine to all of the above groups, but everyone is well advised to spend a little and get the flu shot.
"All of us are at risk, even if we have the fitness level of an international athlete. And all of us are potentially exposed to the virus when we take public transport, go to shopping malls, cinemas or other public places."
"It only costs $10-$15 and everyone must take this preventive measure so that we can all enjoy an immune society."
Dr Bhagat went on to bust popular myths about getting flu shots, that it can actually cause the onset of flu and what are the pros and cons of wearing a face mask. He also spoke about prevention strategies apart from vaccination.
To hear the interview, click on the link above.