14 September 2018

NSW is experiencing the mildest flu season in five years however the peak is yet to come so NSW Health is warning parents to be extra vigilant after 14 children were hospitalised with flu in a week.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Acting Executive Director Health Protection, NSW Health, said 14 children were admitted to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead from 3-9 September with influenza, with a total of 84 children admitted to the Hospital with influenza to date this year.

“Children are most at risk this season as the predominant circulating strain is influenza A (H1N1) which mainly strikes the young ones who have little or no immunity,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“Of the 14 children with influenza admitted to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead during our latest reporting period, 12 had contracted influenza A. Of the 84 children admitted with influenza so far this year to Westmead Children’s only six had received the influenza vaccination.

“We expect the flu season to peak in the next couple of weeks but it’s not too late to be vaccinated. We encourage parents who have not yet vaccinated their children to do so.

“Flu can be life threatening and vaccination offers the best possible protection.”

Just two months ago a child died from influenza A in Sydney. To date this year NSW Health has been notified of 19 people who have died from influenza across NSW.

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.

The flu vaccine is also free under the National Immunisation Program for pregnant women, most Aboriginal people and those who are aged 65 years or more, or have medical conditions such as severe asthma, diabetes and heart problems.

NSW Health has distributed more than 2.3 million doses of government-funded vaccine to GPs and other providers to date this year, more than 50 per cent higher than the quantity distributed last year.

NSW Health’s latest Influenza Surveillance Report shows there were 914 flu cases confirmed across the state in the week ending 9 September, well below the 9,039 notifications in the same period last year.

“While we applaud the efforts of people in helping to achieve record take-up of flu vaccine in NSW we cannot be complacent,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“So far, this is our mildest flu season since 2013 but it’s important to remain vigilant and prevent the spread of flu through vaccination, coughing and sneezing into your elbow, cleaning your hands regularly and staying home when sick.”

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