27 July 2018

As the official arrival of flu season draws closer, NSW Health is reminding people that winter is the busiest time of the year for hospitals and more serious illnesses will be treated as a priority over minor ailments which a GP could treat.

NSW Health’s Influenza Surveillance Weekly Report for the week ending 22 July reveals 246 new cases, well below the 3,282 notifications in the same week in 2017.

However Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases NSW Health, said even though we are seeing less influenza cases, our hospitals are already very busy.

“Our hospitals plan for increased demands on their services each winter due to a range of illnesses, not just the flu.” Dr Sheppeard said.

“Influenza symptoms include a sudden high fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, feeling unwell, and sore throat. If these symptoms develop, people should seek advice from their GP or HealthDirect Australia (1800 022 222), a 24 hour helpline that provides advice from registered nurses.

“It’s important to do this before calling 000 to avoid placing unnecessary demand on hospital emergency departments.”

Dr Sheppeard said the flu season is likely to commence in the next couple of weeks so there is still time for those eligible for the free flu vaccine, to be vaccinated.

“We particularly urge pregnant women and children from 6 months up to 5 years of age to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

The NSW Government is spending a record $22.75 million on state-wide immunisation programs which will assist with flu prevention this season. This includes $3.5 million for free flu shots to children up to five years of age and a $1.75 million immunisation and influenza prevention campaign.

Flu shots are also free under, the National Immunisation Program, for pregnant women, people over 65 years of age, Aboriginal people and those with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart problems.

NSW Health has distributed 2.288 million doses of government funded flu vaccine to hospitals, GPs and other immunisation clinics since April this year, fifty per cent more than was distributed in the entire year in 2017.

NSW Health is issuing an Influenza Surveillance Weekly Report every Friday to keep the community up to date on influenza activity.