Media Release

Nothing to sneeze at: Flu costs the Australian economy $114.6 million

  • Flu cases are nearly triple the amount of this time last year, with NSW hit the hardest.
  • The flu has cost Australian businesses $114.6 million this year.
  • finder.com.au encourages Australians to keep immunisations up to date.

11 September 2017, Sydney, Australia – One in 172 Australians has had the flu so far this year* – the worst outbreak since public records began – according to finder.com.au, the site that compares virtually everything.

Confirmed influenza cases this season are nearly triple the same period last year, with finder.com.au's analysis showing a whopping 81,456 recorded cases last month, compared to 29,425 in August last year.

There have been a record-breaking 143,061 notified cases as of 8 September - far exceeding the 51,603 notifications in January-August 2016.

This equates an estimated $114.6 million worth of lost labour productivity.

New South Wales is the hardest hit - with 9.3 people in every 1,000 across the state being diagnosed with the flu, closely followed by South Australia with 7.8 cases in every 1,000 and Queensland with 7.7 per 1,000.

Bessie Hassan, Insurance Expert at finder.com.au, says Australia is in the grip of a flu emergency.

“We’ve never seen a flu season this severe and it’s not over yet,” she said.

“The real picture could be much, much worse with many people who succumb to the flu not going to the doctor,” she said.

Australians were becoming too complacent about the highly contagious viral infection.

“The flu is a very serious illness that can sometimes be deadly,” she said.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 289 people died from the flu in 2015.

“But even for mild cases, you may not be able to work for days, or you’ll have to look after children who are home sick from school.

Data from the report Vaccine Myopia published in the Medical Journal of Australia found 75% of adults aged 65+ get the influenza vaccination which is available to them for free under the National Immunisation Program.

“That coverage is much lower in the wider population especially among children who have been blamed for the record breaking figures this flu season.”

The most notifications Australia has ever had in one month was 39,222 confirmed cases in August 2015.

“We are definitely on track to exceed that number with a few weeks left of flu season to go and plenty of illness still circulating in the community,” said Ms Hassan.

She urged Australians to get an annual flu shot and to check whether they're covered by their workplace or health insurance scheme.

“Luckily, the National Immunisation Program subsidises the flu vaccine in some cases, such as for over 65s or pregnant women.

"It's important to check your eligibility through your health fund as they may provide cover under certain policies. For example, HBF members with a Health Living policy are covered for flu vaccines administered at selected Friendlies Pharmacies.

“The flu vaccine changes each year to cover new strains of the virus so it’s important to keep immunisations up to date.”

State by state:

  • NSW has seen the highest amount of Influenza cases this year-to-date (71,952 laboratory confirmed cases), as well as the highest cases per person at 9.3 cases per 1,000 people.
  • Temperate QLD had 37,711 diagnosed cases of influenza - or 7.8 per 1,000 people, and has been the second hardest hit State.
  • WA had the fewest cases of influenza at only 1.1 case per 1,000 people, and interestingly cooler Victoria saw only 2 cases per 1,000 people.

*As of 8 September

Methodology
This figure is based on the number of estimated flu cases in August, with 65% of the adult population employed, excluding 20% of the population under 15, using the average wage and assuming sufferers take 3-5 days off.

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Disclaimer

The information in this release is accurate as of the date published, but rates, fees and other product features may have changed. Please see updated product information on finder.com.au's review pages for the current correct values.

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More than 3 million Australians turn to finder.com.au every month to save money, time and make important life choices. We compare virtually everything from credit cards, phone plans, health insurance, travel deals and much more.

Our free service is 100% independently-owned by two Australians: Fred Schebesta and Frank Restuccia. Since launching in 2006, we’ve helped our users make more than 17 million decisions.

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