Cantabrians spared deadly flu outbreak

A mild winter and high vaccination rates have spared Cantabrians from a deadly influenza outbreak.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Alistair Humphrey said the number of influenza cases has not only been lower than anticipated but also lower than the previous five years.

“In spite of the Northern Hemisphere having a relatively heavy influenza season last year.”

Health officials were preparing to counter an outbreak of life-threatening influenza A H3N2 strain, which caused carnage in Europe and the United States. Ironically, the strain is dubbed Aussie flu, where it originated.

The flu affected more than 230,000 Australians, killing 73, before it spread to the Northern Hemisphere.

Dr Humphrey said a relatively mild winter meant people were less likely to be crowded indoors, which reduces the risk of transmitting flu pathogens.

“Moreover, Canterbury has relatively high influenza vaccination rates which would also lead to lower rates of influenza.”

Dr Humphrey said Cantabrians may have missed the outbreak as the strain started to circulate here last year.

“So there would already have been some resistance to influenza in the Canterbury community,” he said.

Pegasus Health CEO Vince Barry said the 24 Hour Surgery had not seen any more patients than usual.

“After very high hospitalisation rates for a particular strain of influenza in the UK and United States over their winter, we were preparing for a high influenza season here as well.”

He said it was a “relief” that it had not hit Canterbury so far this season.