24 August 2018

NSW Health is reminding people to take basic steps to prevent the spread of flu despite the number of cases across the state remaining low compared to last year.

NSW Health’s latest Influenza Surveillance Weekly Report showed 614 confirmed flu cases for the week ending 19 August, higher than 537 cases in last week’s report but much lower than the 9,759 notifications in the same week in 2017.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases NSW Health, said people should remain vigilant despite the low levels of flu circulating in the community.

“Basic hygiene can help prevent flu and other infections spreading in the community so it’s really important to cough and sneeze into your elbow and wash your hands regularly,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“If you are unwell with the flu, stay at home and minimise contact with other people if possible, especially those who are particularly vulnerable such as young children and the elderly. Avoid visiting aged care facilities and child care centres until you have recovered.

“It’s also not too late to vaccinate and we’re encouraging everyone, particularly pregnant women and the parents of young children, to arrange flu shots for themselves and their children as soon as possible.

“Flu cases are on the rise and the predominant circulating strain is H1N1, which mostly affects young children and young adults.”

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, most Aboriginal people and those with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart problems.

Local Health Districts across NSW have prepared well for this year’s flu season, with winter plans in place for our hospitals, including procedures for allocating additional resources during periods of high demand, and promoting good hygiene practices amongst staff and visitors. Around 145,000 doses of influenza vaccine have been provided for health district staff, around 30 per cent more than in 2017.

The Influenza Surveillance Weekly Reports can be viewed on the NSW Health website at Influenza Surveillance Report.