Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director of Communicable Diseases, said overall, health experts say flu numbers are reasonably stable across the state and respiratory presentations to NSW emergency departments remain low.
Cases of Influenza in the Hunter New England, Northern and Western Sydney Local Health Districts have increased NSW case numbers to 968 this week, up from 810 last week.
“It’s pleasing to see only 18 of those cases required hospital admission,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“Influenza A (H1N1) is the dominant strain, particularly in the Hunter region.
“And it’s worth remembering we still haven’t hit our season peak yet, so people shouldn’t become complacent about getting vaccinated.”
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.
For high-risk patients, rapid influenza diagnostic testing is also now available at 24 NSW Health Pathology labs across the state, which can diagnose influenza type A or B in one to four hours, rather than one to four days, enabling faster treatment. High-risk patients are those with a long-term condition like cancer, diabetes or heart disease. For them, the rapid test followed by antiviral treatment can prevent serious complications and reduce time spent in hospital.
This year marks 100 years since the Spanish flu pandemic, that led to the death of around 50 million people globally - almost five per cent of the population at that time. Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, will open a one-day Symposium at Westmead Hospital next week to mark the Centenary, where flu experts will share insights on prevention and control of the virus.
NSW Health is closely monitoring flu case numbers and issuing an Influenza Surveillance Weekly Report every Friday to keep the community up to date on influenza activity.
The Influenza Surveillance Weekly Report can be viewed on the NSW Health website.