Flu season hitting Australia faster and harder than ever before

Experts warn a flu outbreak in Australia could easily spread here. Credit: Image: File; Video: Newshub.

Winter in Australia may still be approaching, but a seasonal killer has already arrived.

Flu season is hitting faster and harder in Australia than ever seen before, with record levels in the month of April spelling a warning for the rest of the year. 

Experts warn an outbreak in Australia could easily spread here.

Perth boy Josh Johnston, nine, has been fighting for his life in intensive care. For others, it's been fatal.

Already 122 people have died - the youngest victim so far was just three years old. This year has already seen 122 deaths compared to 34 last year, and seen 56,503 cases - a sensational climb from 9855, the average from across the past five years.

The flu season hit Australia faster and harder than ever for this time of year with more than 56,500 cases and in April, six times the record high for the month.

Professor Robert Booy, Immunisation Coalition chair, told Newshub: "The whole eastern seaboard, Western Australia, New Zealand, they're all being affected. So this isn't a country-wide, it's actually a South Pacific thing."

Two years ago, Australia's horror flu season claimed 1255 lives. It's too early to say if this year will match it.

But for New Zealand, an Australian pandemic would be only a flight away.

Dr Nikki Turner, the Immunisation Advisory Centre director, said: "There's only a bit of water between us and Australia, someone just needs to carry a respiratory illness on a plane and it will spread around NZ."

The elderly, pregnant women and babies are among those most at risk.

Vaccinations this year are even more urgent. But there's good news for those who act.

"We're seeing the same kinds of flu as they're seeing in Australia. Currently the flu strains are well matched by the vaccine we're using at the moment," said Dr Turner.

A second of pain for a season's protection, with the worst of the winter flu still to come.

Newshub.