Simon Finfer

Q&A with Professor Simon Finfer – Sepsis and the Flu

What is influenza?

Influenza (the ‘flu) is a contagious disease of the respiratory tract caused by influenza viruses. In more than 998 people out of 1000 influenza is a self-limiting illness that does not need any specific treatment other than rest, pain killers such as paracetamol and control of fever. However, in a minority of sufferers it is more serious and may lead to sepsis.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. It may lead to shock, multi-organ failure, and death - especially if not recognized and treated promptly.

Watch this 3 minute video to better understand sepsis.

The following symptoms might indicate sepsis:

  • Slurred speech or confusion
  • Extreme shivering or muscle pain, fever
  • Passing no urine all day
  • Severe breathlessness
  • Feeling like you’re going to die
  • Skin mottled or discoloured

If you have a confirmed or suspected infection and are experiencing any of these symptoms, please contact your local hospital or physician immediately.

Read more information about signs of sepsis in adults.

Read more information about signs of sepsis in children.

Is 2019 a bad flu season?

By 8 July 2019 there have been 130,044 laboratory confirmed notifications of influenza in Australia. Influenza activity is high for this time of year compared to previous years. So far there have been 230 deaths recorded nationally but the proportion of flu sufferers who have become critically ill or died is lower than in other years suggesting that the clinical severity is low.

For more information see the Australian Influenza Surveillance Report and Activity Updates.

Who is most at risk of getting bad flu?

People at risk are the very young and the elderly, people with heart disease disease, chronic lung conditions, those with diabetes and those with impaired immunity.

For more information on at risk groups see the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

Where can I get more information?

Influenza: Australian Government Department of Health 

Sepsis: Australian Sepsis Network