As NSW shivers through its first arctic blast of winter, NSW Health is urging people to get their flu shots now as the best protection against the potentially deadly virus.
NSW Health’s Director of Communicable Diseases, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said there are sufficient supplies of flu vaccine available for people eligible for free state-funded shots, including for children aged under five.
“Getting the flu jab now is critical to reducing the risk of having the potentially lethal virus, particularly as it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to provide full protection,” Dr Sheppeard said.
Dr Sheppeard said the latest Influenza Surveillance Report shows 1843 confirmed flu cases for the week ending 26 May, higher than the 1330 notifications in the previous week.
There have been 43 confirmed deaths from flu so far this year, compared with an annual total of 40 deaths in 2018 and 559 in 2017. Surveillance data captures only a proportion of people who die with influenza, and people who die with influenza often have other underlying illnesses.
“We urge parents of children under five years of age and those vulnerable to the virus – like elderly people, pregnant women and those with other illnesses – to visit their GP as soon as possible for a flu shot,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“Children under nine years of age having the shot for the first time require two doses, one month apart.
“It’s also important that people who are already ill not visit aged care facilities to avoid exposing vulnerable people to catching flu.”
Vaccination is the best defence against flu, but to help prevent its transmission, cough and sneeze into your elbow, clean your hands regularly and stay home when sick.
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.
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.
The NSW Government has invested approximately $130 million in the 2018-19 Immunisation Program budget, including Commonwealth and state vaccines.
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.
The latest Influenza Surveillance Report is available at: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/Influenza/Publications/2019/weekending-26052019.pdf