05 July 2019
NSW Health is again urging friends and relatives of aged-care residents to ensure they are vaccinated against flu before visiting facilities, or delay their visit if unwell, to prevent outbreaks in facilities.

There have been 66 confirmed deaths of people aged over 60 years from flu-related complications since the beginning of the year, including nine deaths in the past week.

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

“Elderly people often have chronic or complex conditions that are aggravated by influenza. While we acknowledge the importance of visiting family members and friends in aged-care facilities, if you are unwell with the flu we are asking people to stay home and minimise contact with other people if possible, until you have recovered,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“There have been 112 confirmed influenza outbreaks in aged-care facilities, including the 26 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.”

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

The latest weekly Influenza Surveillance Report shows there were 5422 flu cases for the week ending 30 June, 805 more notifications than the previous week, taking the yearly total to 36,342.

All aged-care providers are required by the Commonwealth to offer a vaccination program for their staff each year.

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

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, 2.42 million government-funded influenza vaccines have been distributed to providers across NSW.

The NSW Government invested about $130 million in the 2018-19 Immunisation Program budget, including Commonwealth and state vaccines and 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.