Flu numbers fall as spring arrives

Spring has arrived and flu is on the decline.

The end of winter has coincided with a dip in influenza activity across most of NSW in what is turning out to be the State’s longest flu season since the 2009 influenza pandemic.

NSW Health’s Executive Director of Health Protection, Dr Jeremy McAnulty, said figures show there were 823 fewer notifications this past week than the previous one.

“Apart from Western NSW where flu numbers increased slightly, elsewhere cases have decreased and respiratory presentations to our hospital emergency departments are down,” Dr McAnulty said.

“Even though flu presentations at EDs are down, we remind people to please consider all available options such as their local GP, medical centre or pharmacy if their illness is not an emergency.”

The latest weekly Influenza Surveillance Report shows 5,417 flu cases for the week ending 1 September, down from 6,240 notifications the previous week, taking the yearly total to 96,325.

There have been 14 additional deaths reported this week in people aged over 50 years, bringing the annual total to 202 confirmed deaths from influenza, compared to 40 in all of 2018 and 559 in 2017.

“Despite the good news, we urge people not to be complacent and to continue to take simple hygiene precautions because the virus can continue to spread this time of year,” Dr McAnulty said.

“To stop the spread of flu it’s important you stay home if you’re sick, wash your hands regularly and cover coughs and sneezes and for those who haven’t had a flu jab, vaccination is still an option.”

Around 2.5 million doses of Government-funded flu vaccines have been distributed across NSW, including over 214,000 doses for children six months to three years, and 1.18 million doses for people 65 years and over. Eligible people who have not yet had their shot can still get it for free.

People aged 65 and over, pregnant women, Aboriginal people and people with medical conditions that put them at greater risk of flu are all eligible under the National Immunisation Program. The free state-funded vaccine is available to all children aged six months to five years.

The NSW Government will invest about $130 million in the 2019-20 Immunisation Program budget, including Commonwealth and state vaccines, including $2.6 million free flu shots to children up to five years of age and a $1.5 million immunisation and influenza awareness.