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Horror Flu Season Has Killed 82 People In South Australia

South Australia is heading towards its worst flu season on record, with total cases now reaching almost 20,000, compared to just 1,500 at this time last year.

The number of people killed from the virus hit 82 this week according to SA Health. More than 200 people nationwide have died.

Health authorities say the current data is a couple of months behind, so the real number of fatalities is likely to be even higher.

READ MORE: How 2018's Minor Flu Caused This Year's 'Out Of Order' Virus

READ MORE: Aged Care Home In Lockdown After Deadly Flu Outbreak

This year is on track to surpass South Australia's deadliest flu season on record of 2017, when 124 people died. Despite this, 2019's current strain is not considered to be the worst ever seen.

Source: Getty.

"This year we have had this very early peak, so we have got into the season much earlier than we expected to," SA Health spokeswoman Nicola Spurrier said on Monday.

"The other states are also seeing a similar pictures, although South Australia does seem to be a bit ahead. The same can be said for the Northern Territory and also Western Australia."

The majority of people who have died from the flu this year have been aged over 65. Dozens of nursing homes are in lockdown, with 80 aged care facilities reporting outbreaks of the virus.

Across Australia, states are reporting flu cases in higher numbers than recent years, and record numbers of people are receiving the flu vaccine nationwide. SA Health says there has been a high number of people getting vaccinated against the flu this year in SA -- but as always, the vaccine not 100 per cent effective.

"If you start to get a cold, or feel a little bit unwell and you think maybe you're getting the flu, then it's very important that you don't go and visit elderly relatives and friends," Spurrier said.

"Stay away from the new baby that might have been born into your family or friendship group."

SA Health says it is unable to rule out whether there will be another major spike in deaths before the season's end.

Experts can't point to one single cause behind the stunning spike in flu cases, but the finger has been pointed at the fact that Australia escaped with a relatively easy flu season in 2018 -- and now we're paying for it.

"Last year was a very quiet one for influenza. One of the theories is that we didn't get the usual amount of activity last year that would have given the population a bit of protection boost into the next year," David Smith, a microbiologist and clinical professor at the University of Western Australia, told 10 daily last month.

"We’ve gone into this season with a population more susceptible than usual."

Professor Robert Booy, senior professorial fellow at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, told 10 daily. said this year's flu was "totally out of order" and bucked recent trends.

Such high flu numbers are rarely seen at this point of the year, and with the peak of cases traditionally coming in July, there are fears this season has more sickness to dole out to Aussies.

Contact the author: tryan@networkten.com.au