Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases NSW Health, said the latest Influenza Surveillance Weekly Report showed 178 confirmed flu cases for the week ending 1 July, less than a quarter of the 946 cases this time last year, but higher than last week’s tally of 128.
“While flu case numbers are still low across the state, they are starting to rise and we’re seeing Influenza A (H1N1) emerge as the predominant strain,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“Children and young adults are particularly susceptible to this influenza A strain which first emerged as pandemic influenza in 2009.
“Vaccination is your best protection against flu and while it’s still possible to get the virus, the severity and likelihood of being hospitalised will be reduced if you have your flu shot. The children’s vaccine is readily available across the state.”
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 $3.5 million for free flu shots to children up to five years of age and a $1.75 million immunisation and influenza prevention campaign.
The flu vaccine is also free under the National Immunisation Program for those who are pregnant, Aboriginal, aged 65 years or over, or have medical conditions such as severe asthma, diabetes and heart problems.
“It’s not too late to vaccinate and we’re encouraging everyone, particularly pregnant women and the parents of young children, to arrange the flu shot before the season starts,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“Free flu vaccines are available for eligible people of all ages in every part of the state – you simply need to call ahead to your GP to check they have the right vaccine for your age group in stock or give them time to order more vaccines.”
The following good hygiene habits help prevent the spread of influenza and other infections:
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow
- Clean your hands regularly
- Stay home when sick.
NSW Health is closely monitoring flu case numbers and issuing an Influenza Surveillance Weekly Report every Friday to keep the community up to date on influenza activity.
The Influenza Surveillance Weekly Report can be viewed on the NSW Health website.