Flu season may have passed its peak

Registered nurse Angela Vrbesic receives a flu shot at Blacktown Hospital as part of Western Sydney Local Health District’s flu vaccination blitz.

NSW Health says this year’s flu season may have passed its peak, but warns people still need to remain vigilant for the next few weeks.

NSW Health’s Director of Communicable Disease, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said over 2.47 million doses of Government-funded flu vaccines have been distributed across NSW and this has helped to reduce the number of people falling ill.

“With only a few weeks left of winter, influenza activity is continuing to decrease, but it is still about so people should remember to take simple precautions,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“People should cover their coughs and sneezes, wash their hands thoroughly and stay home if they are unwell. Vaccination is still your best protection and it is not too late to have a flu shot.”

The latest weekly Influenza Surveillance Report shows 5,509 flu cases for the week ending 28 July, down from 6,148 notifications the previous week, taking the yearly total to 61,744.

There have been 16 additional deaths of people aged over 65 years reported, bringing the annual total to 106 confirmed influenza deaths.

“We are still seeing outbreaks in aged-care facilities, with 33 reported this week, taking the annual total to 211 outbreaks,” said Dr Sheppeard.

“The elderly are still very vulnerable to flu so we are encouraging people who are sick to stay away from aged-care facilities to stop further outbreaks.” 

Dr Sheppeard said of the 2.47 million doses of Government-funded flu vaccines distributed, over 199,000 doses are for children six months to three years, and 1.18 million doses for people 65 years and over.

Free vaccine is still available for eligible people who have not yet had their shot.

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.