This year’s flu season has hit the North Coast hard, putting extra pressure on the health system.
Outside Sydney, the North Coast had the highest number of cases in the community. NSW Health says that it is appearing at a rate of 13.7 per 100,000 people. Only Western Sydney and Sydney’s north shore had higher rates in NSW.
This follows a major whooping cough outbreak in May where there were almost 40 confirmed cases in a single week.
NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord attributed the North Coast higher rates to small elements in the community who are reluctant to get vaccinations for themselves and loved ones.
As of today for 2017, there have been almost 6,550 cases State-wide including 2,576 notifications in June, almost double the number of flu notifications in June last year.
In NSW, so far, this year, there have been 18 influenza outbreaks in nursing homes with at least 246 residents with flu symptoms and 25 hospitalisations. Fourteen deaths have been linked to these outbreaks – but they also had significant co-morbidities.
Mr Secord said the State Government knew the flu season was on the way, but it was not prepared – with data showing that presentations exceeded the seasonal threshold for influenza-like illnesses in emergency departments.
The flu can have serious consequences for the old, the disabled or the chronically ill.
Around 3000 Australians die each year from complications of colds and flu. We are now in the peak of flu season – between June and August.
In 2017 vaccines were adapted to take into account new emerging strains from the northern hemisphere.
The free flu shots are available to:
People aged 65 years and over;
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders between six months to five years – and over 15; and
People aged six months and over with medical conditions, including:
- Cardiac disease;
- Chronic respiratory conditions including severe asthma;
- Other chronic illnesses requiring regular medical follow up or hospitalisation in the previous year, including diabetes, and chronic renal failure;
- Chronic neurological conditions that impact on respiratory function, including multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, and seizure disorders; and
- Impaired immunity, including HIV.
A number of NSW pharmacists now provide commercial flu vaccinations.