Flu deaths fall to record lows during COVID – just 36 deaths this year

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A positive to come out of the pandemic.

The number of flu-related deaths has fallen as a result of the coronavirus, with Department of Health data showing Australia had just 36 influenza-related deaths during the flu season up to October – compared to 943 in the same time last year.

Overall, flu numbers dropped from over 300,000 in 2019 to just 21,215 in 2020.

Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Omar Khorshid (pictured above) says international border closures had played the biggest part in cutting case numbers.

“This has limited the chance of new strains of virus to enter the country,” he told The Australian.

“We were on track for a normal flu season or potentially a – severe season until the COVID restrictions were implemented.”

Social distancing measures, improved hygiene and increased levels of influenza vaccination were also factors.

Over 17.6 million doses of seasonal influenza vaccines were released in Australia in 2020 according to the data, compared to 13.2 million in 2019 and 11 million in 2018.

However, Dr Khorshid has warned this trend is unlikely to continue post-pandemic unless Australians keep up their higher hygiene levels.

“If we learn the lessons of high vaccination rates, improved – hygiene and a level of social distancing, including wearing masks in public when unwell and not attending work unwell, we could see a lasting improvement in influenza rates and deaths,” he said.