With reported cases of influenza yet to peak, NSW Health is urging people to take precautions to reduce their risk of getting or spreading the contagious illness.
With 19,483 influenza cases reported this year to 4 August, data from previous seasons suggest a peak is likely in the next fortnight.
The latest NSW Health weekly influenza surveillance report, with data up to 30 July, shows that influenza activity has increased further in the community with multiples strains of the influenza virus circulating.
Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases NSW Health, said people with flu symptoms should take extra care to avoid spreading their infection to family and friends who may be at greater risk of a severe influenza infection.
“Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, disposing of used tissues and washing hands thoroughly and often are simple precautions people can take from spreading flu,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“We are seeing high levels of both influenza A and B strains circulating in the community, which places vulnerable people at high risk of catching the influenza and developing severe complications. There have also been 150 outbreaks reported in aged care facilities since the start of the year.”
Dr Sheppeard said people with flu symptoms should also avoid going out unless it’s to see their doctor, and they should stay away from school and work until they have fully recovered.
“It is also important to remember that it’s not too late to vaccinate. Winter will be here for another month and we usually see influenza activity continue into September.”
People at high risk of influenza complications, such as elderly people and younger people with chronic conditions, Aboriginal people in certain age groups, and pregnant women, were also strongly advised to have the influenza vaccination to reduce the risk of influenza.
The weekly report, which includes data from last week, shows there was a marked increase in presentations to emergency departments for pneumonia and influenza-like illness state-wide, with 526 people needing to be admitted for pneumonia including 53 critical care admissions in the week ending 30 July. Despite the increased demand, NSW Health is managing the surge in activity.
“During peak times we encourage people to seek advice from their GPs and HealthDirect, a 24 hour helpline that provides immediate health advice on line from registered nurses,” Dr Sheppeard said.
Influenza symptoms include: fever and chills; cough, sore throat and runny or stuffy nose; muscle aches and joint pains; headaches and fatigue; nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
To minimise the risk of developing influenza:
- get vaccinated every year – vaccination is best before winter starts but it’s not too late to be vaccinated
- wash your hands regularly, cover coughs and sneezes, and dispose of used tissues
- ask sick people to stay away until they are well
- if you are vulnerable to severe influenza see your doctor as soon as influenza symptoms start as early treatment of influenza can help prevent complications.