Protect elderly this winter

Flu outbreaks in aged-care facilities continue to rise, prompting NSW to remind people to get vaccinated against flu before visiting the elderly and stay home if they are ill.

NSW Health Director of Communicable Disease, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said in the year to date there have been 87 confirmed influenza outbreaks in aged-care facilities, 12 of which were reported this week.

“The elderly are highly vulnerable to influenza and the flu jab is critical to reducing the risk of visitors catching the virus and bringing it into aged-care homes,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“If you are unwell with the flu, stay at home and minimise contact with other people if possible, especially those who are particularly vulnerable, such as the elder​ly until you have recovered.”

The latest weekly Influenza Surveillance Report shows there were 4617 flu cases for the week ending 23 June, a rise from 4101 notifications the previous week. There have been seven additional deaths of a person over 60 years from flu-related complications, bringing the annual total to 57 confirmed deaths.

Along with most other parts of Australia, NSW is feeling the effects of an early start to the flu season. NSW Health is again reminding people to consider all available options such as their local GP, medical centre or pharmacy if their illness is not an emergency.

“The flu season is already making its impact felt around the country, with more patients presenting to NSW emergency departments so far in 2019, than in any other six month period,” Dr Sheppeard said.

Flu shots are free under the National Immunisation Program for pregnant women, people over 65 years of age, Aboriginal people and those with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart problems. So far this year, 2.4 million government-funded influenza vaccines have been distributed to providers across NSW.

“We are again encouraging everyone to take advantage of the free flu vaccine as it is still not too late to get vaccinated. The flu vaccine is still the best protection, and simple hand hygiene is also important,” Dr Sheppeard said.

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

Sydney Local Health District today launched FluCare an innovative app designed to co-ordinate a rapid response to influenza outbreaks in nursing homes.

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