Still time for a 'flu jab

LOCAL health authorities do not fear an outbreak of severe flu in NSW despite the deaths of three young children in Western Australia in the past few days.

NSW Health said it was not too late to be vaccinated against the respiratory illness, although the influenza season is already underway.

Two of the children died from complications after falling ill in a Perth hospital. The third did not receive hospital treatment.

Deputy Director of the North Coast Public Health Unit, Greg Bell, said emergency departments across the state are seeing more people with flu-like respiratory illnesses.

"From 10 per cent to 30 per cent of the community may catch influenza each year," he said.

"The state's influenza surveillance system indicates increasing numbers of influenza virus and other respiratory viruses being detected, possibly heralding the start of the annual flu season.

"In recent years the influenza season in NSW has peaked any time from July to September."

Those especially at risk are people over 65 and people with an underlying heart, chest or metabolic illness.

"Each year an estimated 700,000 people of all ages across NSW get the flu and it is the elderly and chronically ill who are more likely to be seriously affected," Mr Bell added.

"While most people simply endure the aches and pains, others can die from the disease and its complications."

People with influenza or other infectious respiratory illnesses should help prevent its spread by resting at home while sick, covering their nose and mouth when they cough or sneeze and regularly washing their hands with soap and running water. It is also important to drink plenty of clear fluids to avoid dehydration.

Symptoms of influenza include a sudden onset of fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, tiredness, sore throat, cough and a runny or stuffy nose.

Symptoms usually appear within one to three days of being infected.

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