Get shot now as killer flu sets in

PARENTS and carers are once again urged to take advantage of plentiful supplies of free flu vaccines to protect their children, after a rise in the number of influenza cases.

NSW Health’s Director of Communicable Diseases, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said the latest data showed 37 people had died in NSW since January from flu-related illnesses and the number of confirmed cases were also up.

“The best weapon against flu is vaccination and right now is the best time to have it as the flu season is already here,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“In line with last year’s reports, the latest analysis includes Births, Deaths and Marriages and flu notification data, demonstrates that there were 37 deaths in people with confirmed flu this year, between January and May 19, which reflects the early unseasonal flu numbers we have seen.”

Deaths in aged-care outbreaks have increased from nine to 10 this year to date.

The report shows 1,320 confirmed flu cases for the week ending May 19, higher than the 979 notifications in the previous week and confirms flu season is here.

“It’s important to get your flu shots now as it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to provide full protection and children under nine years of age having the shot for the first time require two doses, one month apart,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“Children are particularly susceptible to flu so parents and carers are being urged to take up the offer of the free flu vaccine for children aged from six months up to five years.”

Flu symptoms include cough, fatigue, muscle aches and high fever.

Flu shots are also 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.