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The number of influenza deaths in Australia since the beginning of the year have tripled from the same period in 2018, the government said on Wednesday.

Data released by the Department of Health on Wednesday revealed that 99 people have died from the flu in Australia between January 1 and May 20.

It is a near 200 percent increase from the 34 deaths in the same period in 2018 and from the five-year national average, which is also 34.

The number of cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza was 54,432, a 450 percent from the five-year average of 9855 and a 304 percent increase from 13,444 in the same period in 2018.

In Victoria, Australia’s second biggest state by population, influenza has killed 26 people — three children and 23 aged-care residents — compared to zero deaths at the same time in 2018.

Jenny Mikakos, the state’s Health Minister, told News Corp Australia that the high toll was a result of flu season starting earlier than usual.

“We are seeing a lot of communicable diseases spread through overseas travel, that’s certainly been the case in terms of measles cases and flu cases,” she said.

“We have seen a very significant summer flu season this year as a result of people coming back from the northern hemisphere with the flu and that spreading in the community.

“(Juvenile flu deaths) tend to be associated with situations where there might be other illnesses and vulnerabilities involved with those children.”

More than 11.4 million doses of the influenza vaccine have been administered nationwide.

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