NSW Health thanks staff as flu season declines

Westmead Hospital’s emergency department worked hard during the flu season.

NSW Health has thanked health workers for their monumental work in battling influenza this season as latest figures show almost 100,000 influenza notifications to date.

This winter was one of the busiest flu seasons in NSW since the 2009 pandemic, due to coincident outbreaks of influenza A and influenza B, with notifications peaking at almost 50,000 during August.

NSW Health health protection director Dr Jeremy McAnulty said the season was past its peak and staff had emerged on the other side in great shape, which was a credit to staff and effective planning.

“New testing for flu was rolled out this year, which meant more accurate diagnosis of the disease and better targeting of treatment,” he said.

“It also meant there were a lot more positive tests than in previous years, skewing the notification figures.”

The total number of influenza notifications sits at 99,620.

More than 583 outbreaks have been reported from aged care facilities and other institutional settings across the state this year.

“Despite the intensity of this flu season, our hospital staff handled the increased demand extremely well and our health system has coped as a result,” Dr McAnulty said.

“So far in October we’ve seen a sharp decline in notifications – just over 2000 flu cases have been notified.

“The symptoms of flu – fever, cough, runny nose, aches and pain, can be fairly non-specific.

“During peak times we encourage people to seek advice from their GPs and HealthDirect Australia (1800 022 222), a 24-hour helpline that provides immediate health advice on line from registered nurses.

“If you are vulnerable to severe influenza, see your doctor as soon as flu symptoms start as early treatment of flu can help prevent complications.”

Dr McAnulty said vaccination remains the best protection against flu.

“This is particularly important for people who are at risk, including people who are pregnant, over 65 years of age, have severe asthma, diabetes and heart conditions, as well as Aboriginal people aged six months to five years and over 15 years of age. The vaccination is free for these groups under the National Immunisation Program.”

There are some simple things everyone can do to prevent getting flu or passing it on to others:

  • Get vaccinated every year – vaccination is best before winter starts
  • Wash your hands regularly, cover coughs and sneezes, and encourage others to do so as well
  • Ask sick people to stay away until they are well.

NSW Health flu data can be viewed at: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/Pages/data.aspx

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