NSW Health is urging those travelling to the Northern Hemisphere this festive season to get a flu shot before they leave to avoid falling ill on holiday, or bringing the virus back to Australia.
NSW Heath’s Acting Director of Communicable Diseases, Dr Christine Selvey, said that the early start to this year’s very long flu season was probably due to a large jump in summer flu numbers.
“More than 7000 patients in NSW were diagnosed with flu in the first three months of 2019 but the true number is likely higher, as many people don’t present for testing,” Dr Selvey said.
“Getting the flu while you’re travelling overseas will not only spoil your holiday but it can also put your family and friends at risk, particularly infants and the elderly, when you arrive back home.
“People are great at getting their flu jab ahead of our own winter but often forget when they fly to the Northern Hemisphere at Christmas that they are travelling into another winter season.
“The effectiveness of the flu vaccine starts to diminish after a few months, so to ensure you are covered over the holiday season, it is best to get another jab two weeks before leaving Australia.”
Dr Selvey said it is safe to have two flu shots in one year and it is particularly important for travellers aged 65 and over, pregnant women, children aged six months to five years, Aboriginal people and people with certain medical conditions who are all eligible for the free flu vaccine.
“It takes a fortnight after receiving a flu shot for your body to develop adequate protection. Your GP may also suggest other shots you might need, like a measles or typhoid vaccine, or anti-malaria medicine,” she said.
The flu shot currently being used in the Northern Hemisphere is not generally available in Australia so getting the Southern Hemisphere flu shot is the best option to protect yourself prior to travel.
Around 2.5 million doses of Government-funded flu vaccines have been distributed across NSW in 2019.
The NSW Government will invest about $130 million in the 2019-20 Immunisation Program budget, including Commonwealth and state vaccines, $2.6 million for free flu shots to children up to five years and a $1.5 million immunisation and flu awareness campaign.