Twice as many Whittlesea and Hume residents have been diagnosed with the flu so far this year as were diagnosed in all of 2018.
Data from the health department’s Local Government Areas Surveillance Report reveals that as of June 27, 775 people living in Hume and 634 Whittlesea residents had been diagnosed with the flu.
In 2018, just 353 Hume residents and 298 Whittlesea residents were diagnosed with the illness.
The figures come as health authorities warn this year’s flu season is one of the worst on record.
Northern Health infection prevention manager Madeline Flynn said The Northern Hospital had seen a higher number of flu cases than normal.
So far, 497 people have presented to the hospital with influenza.
“The flu season has started earlier this year and has been busier than previous years, with higher interseasonal numbers of cases,” she said. “Presentations of flu have been widespread across different age groups.”
FREE VACCINE: Northern Health offers free flu shots
The hospital is offering free flu vaccinations for the community from its clinic in the foyer from noon-8pm daily.
Northern Health head of respiratory medicine, Dr Katharine See said having a flu shot significantly reduces the risk of getting the flu, with the vaccination recommended for all members of the community.
The latest figures come as Health Minister Jenny Mikakos warned people to stay home from school or work if they were suffering from the flu.
“This is how the flu is spreading across the community,” she said. “It’s really important that people take heed of those simple precautions.”
Ms Mikakos said there were nine times more confirmed flu cases in Victoria this year than the same time last year. To date, 36 people, including three children have died from the flu this year.