Beat flu to go back to school

School holidays are almost over but NSW Health isurging parents to keep their children home if they are sick, with flu casesamongst children and younger adults still on the rise.

NSW Health’s Director of Communicable Disease, DrVicky Sheppeard, said the flu is disproportionally affecting those under 20years, so it is crucial families remember simple hygiene precautions.

“More than 20 children under five years of age wereadmitted to hospital with influenza-like illness in the past week,” DrSheppeard said.

“The flu is still about so I urge parents not to sendtheir children back to school if they are ill and to follow simple hygieneprecautions.

“Minimising the spread of flu only requires a few simplesteps from everyone, including covering coughs and sneezes, washing your handsthoroughly and staying home if you are ill. Remember, vaccination is still yourbest protection and it is not too late to have a flu shot.”

The latest weekly InfluenzaSurveillance Report shows 6,418flu cases for the week ending 14 July, down from 6,762 notifications theprevious week, taking the yearly total to 47,822. Six people diagnosed with fludied in the last week and three additional deaths were confirmed from earlierin the season, bringing the annual total to 79 confirmed deaths.

Dr Sheppeard said 2.45 million doses ofGovernment-funded flu vaccines have been distributed across NSW, including over195,000 doses for children six months to three years, and 1.18 million dosesfor people 65 years and over. A free vaccine is still available for eligiblepeople who have not yet had their shot.

“While data suggests we may have reached the peak ofthe flu season this will be confirmed in subsequent weeks, so everyone needs toremember to keep taking precautions,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“If you are sick it is best to avoid visiting elderlyrelatives at aged-care facilities. In the year to date there have been 154confirmed influenza outbreaks in aged-care facilities, 24 of which werereported this week.”

Flu shots are free under the National ImmunisationProgram for pregnant women, people over 65 years of age, Aboriginal people andthose with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart problems.

The NSW Government continues astrong investment on statewide immunisation programs including $2.6 million forfree flu shots to children up to five years of age and a $1.5 millionimmunisation and influenza awareness campaign.

The NSW Government will investabout $130 million in the 2019-20 Immunisation Program budget, includingCommonwealth and state vaccines.

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