Protect yourself and your family from respiratory illnesses these school holidays

NSW Health is strongly urging western Sydney families to stay up to date with their vaccinations during the school holidays to prevent serious respiratory illness.

The latest NSW Health Respiratory Surveillance Report shows influenza notifications continued to increase in the week ending 6 July 2024, as have influenza-like illness emergency department presentations and admissions.

NSW Health Executive Director of Health Protection Dr Jeremy McAnulty said influenza activity remains at high levels across all age groups in the community, with the highest rates in children under 16 years.

“This is a timely reminder for parents to ensure their young children are vaccinated. Children under 5 years of age are at higher risk of severe illness from influenza, and the flu vaccine is readily available and free for children aged six months to under five years,” Dr McAnulty said.

“It takes 10 to 14 days for immunity to kick in after receiving the flu vaccination, so now is the time to get vaccinated to ensure you and your family are protected when school returns.

“Viruses including influenza, COVID-19 and RSV are continuing to circulate during the school holidays. People with one of these illnesses or who have cold or flu-like symptoms should stay at home and wear a mask if they do need to go out.”

People who are at higher risk of severe illness from influenza who are eligible for free vaccination include:

  • people aged 65 years and over
  • children aged six months to under five years
  • Aboriginal people from six months of age
  • pregnant women
  • people with serious health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, severe asthma, kidney, heart, and lung disease.

There are some simple steps you can take to help protect yourself and your loved ones from respiratory viruses like COVID-19, influenza and RSV, including:

  • Stay up to date with your recommended influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations
  • Stay home if you are sick and wear a mask if you need to leave home
  • Get together outdoors or in large, well-ventilated spaces with open doors and windows
  • Avoid crowded spaces
  • Consider doing a rapid antigen test (RAT) before visiting people at higher risk of severe illness
  • Talk with your doctor now if you are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or influenza to make a plan about what to do if you get sick, including what test to take, and discussing if you are eligible for antiviral medicines
  • Don’t visit people who are at higher risk of severe illness if you are sick or have tested positive to COVID-19 or influenza
  • Practice good hand hygiene, including handwashing.