The Western NSW Local Health District is pushing vaccinations as influenza (flu) rips through the region and the state.
On Wednesday the state opposition’s health spokesman Walt Secord reported that NSW was experiencing its worst flu season. He said 35,727 cases of flu had been confirmed this year, compared with 35,538 across 2016.
Mr Secord released data showing most of the state’s local health districts had treated more flu patients so far this year than throughout 2016. The Western NSW Local Health District was among a small number of LHDs yet to exceeded their 2016 tallies. As of Wednesday there were 559 cases in the health district, compared with 664 in 2016.
The health district’s director of nursing and midwifery Adrian Fahy confirmed the 559 cases. “Every winter our hospitals see increased activity due to seasonal illness, and this year that activity peak has hit earlier,” he said. “Flu notifications have been rising year-on-year since 2009, mainly due to the increasing use of more sensitive tests by GPs and emergency departments. In 2017 to date there have been 559 influenza notifications across the district, compared to 323 for the same period last year.”
Mr Fahy said hospitals were prepared for the winter peak, but there was “a lot that people can do to keep themselves well and to prevent a trip to hospital”. “Vaccination is your best protection against flu and it’s still not too late to vaccinate this season,” he said.
Mr Fahy said the number of people attending an Emergency Department (ED) with respiratory problems or flu-like illnesses was up on previous years, particularly in “our base hospitals”. “NSW Health hospitals plan for increased demands on their services each winter and carry out a range of measures to cope with the increase,” he said. “These surges are related not just to influenza but to a range of illnesses, and the system is managing very well, thanks to the hard work of hospital staff.”
But Mr Fahy is telling people to “seek the right kind of care depending on their symptoms”. He said in the event of an emergency call Triple 0 or visit an ED. People with “less severe symptoms” should see a GP, pharmacist or seek advice through HealthDirect on 1800 022 222. Mr Secord is accusing the state government of having “dropped the ball on prevention”, putting unnecessary strain on emergency departments.