19 July 2019

School holidays are almost over but NSW Health is urging parents to keep their children home if they are sick, with flu cases amongst children and younger adults still on the rise.

NSW Health’s Director of Communicable Disease, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said the flu is disproportionally affecting those under 20 years, so it is crucial families remember simple hygiene precautions.

“More than 20 children under five years of age were admitted to hospital with influenza-like illness in the past week,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“The flu is still about so I urge parents not to send their children back to school if they are ill and to follow simple hygiene precautions.

“Minimising the spread of flu only requires a few simple steps from everyone, including covering coughs and sneezes, washing your hands thoroughly and staying home if you are ill. Remember, vaccination is still your best protection and it is not too late to have a flu shot.”

The latest weekly Influenza Surveillance Report shows 6,418 flu cases for the week ending 14 July, down from 6,762 notifications the previous week, taking the yearly total to 47,822. Six people diagnosed with flu died in the last week and three additional deaths were confirmed from earlier in the season, bringing the annual total to 79 confirmed deaths.

Dr Sheppeard said 2.45 million doses of Government-funded flu vaccines have been distributed across NSW, including over 195,000 doses for children six months to three years, and 1.18 million doses for people 65 years and over. A free vaccine is still available for eligible people who have not yet had their shot.

“While data suggests we may have reached the peak of the flu season this will be confirmed in subsequent weeks, so everyone needs to remember to keep taking precautions,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“If you are sick it is best to avoid visiting elderly relatives at aged-care facilities. In the year to date there have been 154 confirmed influenza outbreaks in aged-care facilities, 24 of which were reported this week.”

Flu shots are 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.

The NSW Government continues a strong investment on statewide immunisation programs including $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.

The NSW Government will invest about $130 million in the 2019-20 Immunisation Program budget, including Commonwealth and state vaccines.​