SERIOUS PROBLEM: There has been more than 245,000 presentations to NSW emergency departments for respiratory conditions this year.
SERIOUS PROBLEM: There has been more than 245,000 presentations to NSW emergency departments for respiratory conditions this year.

Winter is over but flu germs didn't get the memo

LISMORE Base Hospital has experienced an increase in the number of patients presenting with influenza during August, compared with previous months.

If you find your children are still sneezing although the weather is a lot warmer, you are not alone.

Ian Hatton, general manager, Lismore Base Hospital, Northern NSW Local Health District, said the increase in influenza cases late in the season is normal for Northern NSW and this has been anticipated by staff and management.

"While all hospital wards are operational, incoming patients testing positive for influenza are being directed to a ward where other influenza patients are receiving treatment," Mr Hatton said.

"This is a routine and precautionary procedure to mitigate risk of spreading infection, and allows staff to more effectively monitor patients and visitors coming in to the area."

NSW Health's director of Communicable Disease, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said latest figures show children aged 5 to 9 years have been particularly affected, with a rise in influenza B virus cases.

"The extended period of influenza activity in 2019 has seen high numbers of presentations to hospital emergency departments, with over 245,000 presentations to NSW emergency departments for respiratory conditions this year, compared to 198,000 to this time in 2018 and 222,000 in 2017," Dr Sheppeard said.

"While activity in most parts of the state is stable, the past week saw an increase in notifications in the Hunter New England, Southern and Murrumbidgee regions."

The latest weekly Influenza Surveillance Report shows 5549 flu cases for the week ending August 25, down from 5800 notifications the previous week but taking the yearly total to 90,409.

Mr Hatton said this is a timely reminder to the community that it is not too late to get vaccinated against influenza.

"It is also important to prevent the spread of flu by regularly washing your hands, staying at home if you are sick, and coughing or sneezing into your elbow," he said.

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.

"The NSW Government continues a strong investment on state-wide immunisation programs including $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," Mr Hatton said.

The NSW Government will invest about $130 million in the 2019-20 Immunisation Program budget, including Commonwealth and state vaccines.

More information on influenza can be found at the Health NSW Influenza web page.



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