Warning: Flu cases spike

GLOVES and a mask could be the new fashion accessory this spring for people who wish to avoid a bout of the flu.

The North Coast has seen a spike in confirmed cases of influenza over the past few weeks, up 26% on the five-year average for this time of year.

Director of public health for the Northern New South Wales Local Health District, Paul Corben said of the 535 reported cases in 2014, 334 were recorded in August.

The figure represents laboratory confirmed reports of influenza between Port Macquarie and the Queensland border, while unreported cases were not included in the numbers.

Thirty cases were confirmed in the Clarence Valley since the start of August, compared to six prior.

"The peak flu season has arrived a little bit later this year," Mr Corben said.

"Part of what may be driving these figures is new testing available to doctors."

The latest Australian Influenza Surveillance Report, covering the two week period to August 15, shows seasonal influenza activity has continued to increase, with NSW and Qld reporting the highest levels of activity.

As of August 15, there were 29,155 cases of laboratory confirmed influenza reported across Australia, with 10,410 notifications occurring during the report fortnight.

Nationally influenza A is the predominant influenza virus type.

The rate of influenza associated hospitalisations has dropped slightly over the past fortnight, with around 10% of cases admitted directly to ICU.

The majority of hospital admissions have been associated influenza A infections and the median age of cases is 42 years.

Mr Corben recommends people at high risk should talk with their GP about the influenza vaccine, which remains the best form of protection against the virus.

Free health advice is available on 1800 022 222.

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