NSW Health has renewed calls for the elderly and those in high risk groups to take advantage of free flu vaccinations after a spike in outbreaks from aged care facilities.
More than 50 outbreaks in aged care homes have been recorded in the past week, prompting doctors to request family visiting the elderly to stay away if they are ill.
Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases NSW Health, said family and friends of the elderly are risking the life of a loved one if they visit them with flu symptoms.
“Each year more than 800 people die in NSW from complications associated with influenza and the elderly are particularly vulnerable,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“We are seeing high levels of both influenza A and B strains circulating in the community and older people are more susceptible to severe infection from the influenza A strain that is circulating.”
Dr Sheppeard said there have been close to 140 influenza outbreaks in residential aged care facilities this year and many of these would have been started by unwell visitors.
Pregnant women were also strongly advised to have the influenza vaccination to reduce the health risks to themselves and their babies, as well as those with chronic conditions.
NSW Health confirmed 11,262 influenza cases were reported in July from across the state.
Marked increases in presentations to emergency departments have been experienced state-wide, with over 8000 people from all age groups presenting the past week, 2000 more than at the same time last year, however NSW Health is managing the influx.
“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.
Flu 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 encourage others to do so as well
- ask sick people to stay away until they are well
- if you are vulnerable to severe influenza see your doctor as soon as flu symptoms start as early treatment of flu can help prevent complications.
For more information see the NSW Health factsheet: