Wide Bay Public Health Physician Dr Niall Conroy said the low number of reported influenza cases in the Wide Bay was consistent with what was occurring nationwide.
Wide Bay Public Health Physician Dr Niall Conroy said the low number of reported influenza cases in the Wide Bay was consistent with what was occurring nationwide.

REVEALED: The STI rising while flu cases fall in Wide Bay

THE community's efforts to combat COIVD-19 has had a flow on effect significantly reducing the number of influenza cases within Wide Bay.

However, reported sexually transmissible infections like gonorrhoea and chlamydia have either increased or remained similar to last year's case numbers throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year's horror flu season saw 2219 lab confirmed flu cases in Wide Bay, according to the region's Public Health Unit data.

Between January 1 and July 12 last year there were 890 cases, whereas a mere fraction of those numbers were seen this year.

For the same period in 2020, there has only been 141 lab confirmed influenza cases in the region.

Wide Bay Public Health Physician Dr Niall Conroy said the low number of reported influenza cases in Wide Bay was consistent with what was occurring nationwide.

"The fall in cases is likely the result of a number of aspects of the national response to COVID-19,"

"Social distancing and lockdowns during the COVID-19 response has led to fewer social gatherings and the closure of schools and workplaces, which limits the possibility of transmission of influenza.

Dr Conroy said the concerns about COVID-19 also led to an increased demand for flu vaccination before the traditional influenza season, which has meant more people are protected against the infection.

"On top of this some settings such as residential aged care have required all people entering the premises to be vaccinated, offering additional protection to elderly people who are more vulnerable to the infection," he said.

Another important aspect to the pandemic response which may have influenced influenza numbers is the reduction in travel.

"Flu travels around the country and around the globe every year, therefore reducing movement of people from interstate and international locations reduces the capacity of influenza to travel and spread broadly," Dr Conroy said.

"It is possible that there will be a spike in influenza cases as restrictions lift and people start moving around and interacting more.

"That said the response to COVID-19 may help limit the spread of influenza due to more people being vaccinated than other years, people consciously practising good hand and cough hygiene, more people working from home and people being more likely to stay home when they are unwell."

While the current flu season has 749 fewer cases on last year's statistics, it's a different story for the region's reported STI cases.

According to the Wide Bay Public Health Unit data, from January 1 to July 12 this year there has been 77 gonorrhoea cases.

While that is only an increased of three cases from the same period last year, the Year To Date average between 2015 and 2019 is 37.

"The local increase in year-to-date gonorrhoea numbers is consistent with a statewide increase in gonorrhoea numbers," he said.

"The increased numbers are likely to represent an overall increase of gonorrhoea in Queensland.

"Those infected with gonorrhoea are generally symptomatic leading them to seek testing."

Dr Conroy said the Wide Bay chlamydia numbers were consistent with previous years and do not indicate any change in community transmission.

This year has seen 300 cases of chlamydia in the Wide Bay to July 12.

"Consistent use of condoms help to significantly reduce the risk of acquiring gonorrhoea or chlamydia and the Wide Bay Q Clinic urges people to practice safe sex," Dr Conroy said.

"Anyone engaging in unprotected sex should seek out testing for themselves and their partner/partners."

 

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