Deniliquin doctor Ian Dumbrell says he has seen ‘‘nothing like it’’ when responding to the influenza outbreak currently sweeping through Deniliquin and district.
Dr Dumbrell, who has been a general practitioner for 20 years and a doctor for 30, has seen a massive spike in patients presenting with the flu.
‘‘Personally, I would usually see one to two influenza cases every couple of months — I have seen maybe 30 in the last two weeks alone,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s a huge outbreak and these numbers are confirmed cases alone. There would be many more cases which just haven’t been tested.’’
Dr Dumbrell said these alarming figures are a consequence of the flu’s ability to spread quickly and easily.
‘‘If there are only one or two cases, we can isolate them and contain the influenza to a small area,’’ he said.
‘‘However, when it gets a hold on the community like it has, everyone comes into contact with someone who has the flu.’’
With symptoms including high fever, sweats, cough, sore throat and muscle aches and pains, Dr Dumbrell said the flu can be described as a ‘‘really bad cold’’.
‘‘Deniliquin is seeing outbreaks of mainly Influenza A, but there has been a small outbreak of Influenza B,’’ he said.
However, Dr Dumbrell believes the outbreak is ‘‘on the way out’’.
‘‘The influenza tends to reach a peak, and from there is starts to decline,’’ he said.
‘‘We probably reached our peak sometime last week but we are seeing a few less patients each day.’’
Murrumbidgee Local Health District director public health Tracey Oakman agreed the illness should start to subside soon, but said ‘‘we’re not out of it yet’’.
“We expect to still see some cases over the next few weeks at least,” she said.
Ms Oakman said influenza statistics provided to her department from across the health region are higher than previous years, but said notifiable cases handled at the Deniliquin Hospital were on par with previous years.
She admitted official figures may not be a true reflection of what is going on in communities, due to low testing rates.
“I only have an indication of notified cases to the public health unit, which are those who have been sent for pathology and nasal swab testing,” Ms Oakman said.
“My figures show they are on par with previous years, and that emergency department visits in Deniliquin are not overly high compared to other years either.
“We do see there has been an increase in people presenting with coughs and shortness of breath, particularly in the last three weeks, but I would suggest most doctors are not testing and just treating their patients.
“Across the health district we have had more people present with flu symptoms so far in 2017 than in the full year of 2016.
“To the start of August we had 800 notifiable cases across the health district, but that may simply reflect the ease of testing now.
“There is no doubt, however, that all our health providers have been very busy this season.”
To prevent being struck by the influenza, Dr Dumbrell stressed the importance of hand hygiene, fluids and oral rehydration.