COORDINARE – South Eastern NSW PHN and Southern NSW Local Health District today issued a reminder to local residents, encouraging them to have a flu shot – and soon – to best protect themselves this winter. According to Tracey Oakman from Southern NSW Local Health District Public Health Unit, the flu shot is the most simple, safe and effective means of protection against influenza. “While influenza activity is generally low across Southern NSW, influenza A strain is predominating and continuing to trend upwards across the state,” Ms Oakman said.
“Influenza A is a highly contagious viral infection that spreads easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing and close contact. “We recommend that everyone from six months of age be vaccinated. It not only protects you, but also others who may be at greater risk of severe illness by reducing the spread of flu in the whole community.” The 2017 season was the worst on record for the Health District, with 1,938 confirmed cases – 851 in September alone. That compares to 556 cases for the whole of 2016. Dr Tanya Robertson, Medical Director of the South Eastern NSW PHN, warned that it does take about two weeks for people’s immune system to fully respond to the vaccine and offer full protection. “Having the vaccine now means that you’ll be covered before the peak flu period around August and September,” Dr Robertson said. Free flu vaccines are available under the National Immunisation Program for people at greatest risk of complications. This includes: all children aged 6 months to 5 years Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 15 years and over people aged 65 years and over individuals with certain medical conditions predisposing to severe influenza pregnant women. “A reminder to parents, children aged from six months to under five years are recommended to have two vaccine doses in the first year they receive a flu vaccine, with at least four weeks between doses to ensure they develop strong protection. Children who have been immunised against flu previously will only require one dose each year.” Vaccines are also available from people’s usual immunisation provider, such as local GPs, Aboriginal Medical Service, community health centres or pharmacies. “Good hand hygiene, sneezing into your elbow and staying at home and away from the general public as much as possible while you are sick are other precautions against the spread of flu,” Dr Robertson said. Those who are worried about their symptoms should seek advice from their GP or HealthDirect Australia (1800 022 222), a 24 hour helpline that provides advice from registered nurses. In an emergency, people should call 000 or attend a local hospital emergency department. To find out more go to: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/Influenza/Pages/default.aspx