Flu season starts – vaccinate now to beat bug

With the official start of the winter fluseason, NSW Health is urging people to get their flu jab as soon as possible toprotect themselves against the potentially deadly infection.

NSW Health’s Director of CommunicableDiseases, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said flu vaccines are now available at GPs,Aboriginal Medical Services, and for children, at most council and community healthservices that routinely provide childhood vaccination services.

“Vaccinationis your best protection against the flu, so we encourage everyone who can toget vaccinated as soon as possible,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“We’ve seen abnormally high numbers ofreported flu cases across Australia over the warmer months leading into winter,so we are urging people to act now and get vaccinated.

“It’s important to act now because it takesabout two weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective, and children undernine years of age having the shot for the first time require two doses, onemonth apart.”

The first of the 2019 weekly InfluenzaSurveillance Reports shows that the flu season has commencedearly in the year, with 856 confirmed flu cases for the week ending 12 May,higher than the 812 notifications in the previous week.

“There are plentiful supplies of influenzavaccine and we urge parents of children under 5 years of age and othersvulnerable to influenza to visit their GP as soon as possible,” she said.

TheNSW Government is spending a record $22.75 million on statewide immunisationprograms which will assist with flu prevention this season. This includes $2.6million for free flu shots to children up to five years of age and a $1.5million immunisation and influenza awareness campaign.

The NSW Government has investedapproximately $130 million in the 2018-19 Immunisation Program budget, includingCommonwealth and state vaccines.

Flu shots are also 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.

Vaccinationis the best protection against the flu, but the following steps also helpprevent the spread of influenza:

  • Cough and sneeze intoyour elbow;
  • Clean your hands;
  • Stay home when sick.

“We urge everyone to getthe flu jab to build immunity in the community and beat the flu bug this winter- it could save your life,” Dr Sheppeard said.

NSW Health is closelymonitoring flu case numbers and issuing an InfluenzaSurveillance Weekly Report every Friday to keep the community upto date on influenza activity.

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