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Melbourne's Flu Outbreak is About To Get Worse

A fast-mutating strain of the flu has got medical experts stunned as the effort to stop it isn’t working, with 73 people already dying in Australia this year.

Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory figures showed that the number of notified laboratory-confirmed flu cases in Victoria for the year to July 2 was more than 90 per cent higher than those for the same period last year.

Influenza A (H3N2) is the flu subtype that is running rampant throughout the country, especially in nursing homes.

Despite extensive studies, scientists are at a loss to forecast how the virus will evolve for the next decade.

Australian Medial Association vice-president Dr Tony Bartone said influenza viruses rapidly evolve making it hard to develop protective vaccines against them.

Bartone said "Every now and then a major change occurs in the virus," 

"We're punctuated regularly with seasonal variations of influenza, but the virus is very clever. It has evolved an ability to change its covering and mutate fractionally to get past defences allowing the virus to continue to spread."

However, Dr Bartone said Australians weren't defenceless against the epidemic. "This is a wake-up call to ourselves to be well-immunised people," he said.

"Each year an estimated 3500 people die of the flu across the nation, but all the research shows us that being immunised can greatly reduce the risk of contracting the virus to begin with."

The vaccination rate in Australia stands at 20 per cent.

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