Visitors asked to get vaccinated to stop aged care outbreaks

NSW Health isagain urging friends and relatives of aged-care residents to ensure they arevaccinated against flu before visiting facilities, or delay their visit ifunwell, to prevent outbreaks in facilities.

There have been66 confirmed deaths of people aged over 60 years from flu-related complicationssince the beginning of the year, including nine deaths in the past week.

NSW HealthDirector of Communicable Diseases, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said there have been 26influenza outbreaks in aged-care facilities just this week and unwell visitorsare potentially putting loved ones at risk.

“Elderly people often have chronic or complex conditionsthat are aggravated by influenza. Whilewe acknowledge the importance of visiting family members and friends inaged-care facilities, if you are unwell with the flu we are asking people tostay home and minimise contact with other people if possible, until you haverecovered,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“There havebeen 112 confirmed influenza outbreaks in aged-care facilities, including the26 which were reported this week. The elderlyare highly vulnerable to influenza and the flu jab is critical to reducing therisk of visitors catching the virus and bringing it into aged-care homes.”

“It is not toolate to get vaccinated, we want to remind people that the flu vaccine is stillthe best protection so please take advantage of the free jab.”

The latestweekly InfluenzaSurveillance Report shows there were 5422 flu cases for the weekending 30 June, 805 more notifications than the previous week, taking theyearly total to 36,342.

All aged-careproviders are required by the Commonwealth to offer a vaccination program fortheir staff each year.

“Ifnew cases of the flu do arise, we encourage all aged-care facilities to contactthe local public health unit so NSW Health can help manage any outbreak.”

Flu shots arefree under the National Immunisation Program for pregnant women, people over 65years of age, Aboriginal people and those with medical conditions such asasthma, diabetes and heart problems. So far this year, 2.42 milliongovernment-funded influenza vaccines have been distributed to providers acrossNSW.

The NSWGovernment invested about $130 million in the 2018-19 Immunisation Programbudget, including Commonwealth and state vaccines and is spending a record$22.75 million on state-wide immunisation programs which will assist with fluprevention this season. This includes $2.6 million for free flu shots tochildren up to five years of age and a $1.5 million immunisation and influenzaawareness campaign.

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