NSW Health has markedly improved the ability to track and attack the influenza virus, thanks to a range of new sophisticated real-time tracking systems.
Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Disease, NSW Health, said due to better monitoring, more people are being diagnosed with influenza this year.
“The flu season is expected to peak in the coming weeks, so now is a good time to get vaccinated if you haven’t already done so,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“Our surveillance shows the flu season started earlier than usual this year and we expect to see a large increase in infections in the coming weeks.”
NSW Health has received 6474 flu notifications to date this year. This includes 2576 notifications in June, almost double the number of flu notifications in June last year.
“Influenza epidemics occur every year, but it’s impossible to predict their severity and timing. That’s why our real-time tracking systems are important in understanding how flu progresses through the season,” Dr Sheppeard said.
This year’s flu vaccine covers the four influenza strains circulating in Australia.
Ahead of the influenza season, NSW Health issued recommendations to GPs, specialists, aged care facilities and hospitals. It also issued advice to the community on how to access free vaccines and how to prevent the spread of flu.
“Flu vaccination is free for higher-risk groups including pregnant women, people with certain chronic medical conditions – such as severe asthma, diabetes or heart disease – and Aboriginal people aged six months to five years, or over 15 years,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“Vaccination is the best protection against seasonal influenza. Those eligible for a free vaccine should make an appointment with their local doctor as soon as possible. Other people can see their GP or chemist.”
As well as getting a flu shot, the following steps can help prevent the spread of flu:
- avoid people you know are sick with flu
- avoid crowded places where there may be other people sick with flu
- if you have the symptoms, don’t visit vulnerable people or aged care facilities Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, use disposable tissues, and dispose of tissues immediately after use
- wash your hands regularly, especially after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
For more information see the NSW Health influenza fact sheet and the Pregnant women and influenza page.
Media contact: NSW Health Media Unit, (02) 9391 9121, after-hours, (02) 9962 9890, email firstname.lastname@example.org