24 May 2019
Parents and carers are once again urged to take advantage of plentiful supplies of free flu vaccines to protect their children, after a rise in the number of influenza cases.

NSW Health’s Director of Communicable Diseases, Dr Vicky Sheppeard said the latest data shows 37 people have died since January from flu-related illnesses and the number of confirmed cases are also up.

“The best weapon against flu is vaccination and right now is the best time to have it as the flu season is already here,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“In line with last year’s reports, the latest analysis includes Births, Deaths and Marriages and flu notification data, which demonstrates that there were 37 deaths in people with confirmed flu this year, between January and 19 May, which reflects the early unseasonal flu numbers we have seen.”

Deaths in aged-care outbreaks have increased from nine to ten this year to date.

The report shows 1320 confirmed flu cases for the week ending 19 May, higher than the 979 notifications in the previous week and confirms flu season is here.

“It’s important to get your flu shots now as it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to provide full protection and children under nine years of age having the shot for the first time require two doses, one month apart.”

“Children are particularly susceptible to flu so parents and carers are being urged to take up the offer of the free flu vaccine for children aged from six months up to five years under the NSW Government’s $2.6 million program”

Flu symptoms include cough, fatigue, muscle aches and high fever.

NSW Health is encouraging parents to organise their children’s flu shots as soon as possible, by:

Collaborating with childcare centres and schools; Working closely with Local Health Networks; and promoting flu vaccination through targeted radio and digital advertising.

“There are ample supplies of influenza vaccine and we urge parents of children under 5 years of age and others vulnerable to influenza to visit their GP as soon as possible,” Dr Sheppeard said.

The NSW Government is spending a record $22.75 million on statewide immunisation programs which will assist with flu prevention this season. This includes $2.6 million for free flu shots to children up to five years of age and a $1.5 million immunisation and influenza awareness campaign.

In 2018, the first year of the NSW Government under 5 flu vaccination program, 25% of children from 6 months up to 5 years were recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register as having received an influenza vaccine.

The NSW Government has invested approximately $130 million in the 2018-19 Immunisation Program budget, including Commonwealth and state vaccines.

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.

Vaccination is the best protection against flu, but to help prevent its spread, cough and sneeze into your elbow, clean your hands regularly and stay home when sick.

The latest Influenza Surveillance Report is available at: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/Influenza/Publications/2019/weekending-19052019.pdf