Tasmania is on track for another bad flu season, with the number of reported influenza cases so far this year almost equaling the total number of cases for 2018.
Australia wide, the number of people diagnosed with influenza is more than two times higher than it was this time last year at 29,171.
In Tasmania there have already been 448 cases of the flu, compared to 452 for the whole of 2018.
Dr Katie Flanagan, the head of infectious diseases at Launceston General Hospital, said national and international flu trends for the year so far were concerning.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we had another bad season. I didn't think it was going to happen for quite a few years, but now I am thinking it probably is," she said.
"It isn't looking very good at all actually, but it's always hard to predict. Adelaide in South Australia is currently undergoing its highest rates at this time of the year, in a very long time, and there's been quite a lot of influenza in Tasmania already.
"The Americans have also seen a massive surge in H3N2 which is killing people. So it's possible that we are going to have something similar happen, but we can never quite know."
Last year's flu season was considered mild compared to 2017, which saw 3505 cases of influenza in Tasmania and 21 deaths.
It prompted a statewide push to increase the uptake of flu vaccinations in the community, with about 30 per cent of Tasmanians receiving a vaccine in 2018.
Overflow beds at public hospitals were also opened to help meet demand.
However, the state government has yet to reveal details of its 2019 flu strategy, including whether or not more beds will be made available.
Health Minister Michael Ferguson said the government was developing a winter plan to ensure staff and patients would be supported.
"The THS is considering a range of strategies to best manage increased demand pressure during the winter months, and we will release details when they are finalised," he said.
Public Health Services have advised that April and May remain the best time to receive an influenza vaccine, with flu season usually starting in June or July and peaking around August.
The flu vaccine is free to:
- People aged 65 years and over
- All Aboriginal and Torres Strait people aged over six months
- Pregnant women
- People aged six months and over with medical conditions such as lung or heart disease, severe asthma, impaired immunity or diabetes. All these conditions increase the risk of flu complications
- Children from six months to less than five years can receive a free state government-funded flu vaccine again this year
For more information visit www.flu.tas.gov.au.