Western NSW residents are being encouraged to “ask sick people to stay away until they are well” as influenza (flu) marches through the region.
On Wednesday the Western NSW Local Health District reported of 559 flu notifications this year, up 236 on the 323 recorded in the same period in 2016.
Its director of nursing and midwifery Adrian Fahy also told of more people going to emergency departments with respiratory problems and flu-like illnesses.
He revealed an earlier-than-usual peak in flu activity before offering advice on keeping it at bay.
Mr Fahy said an annual vaccination “before winter starts” was optimum
“Vaccination is your best protection against flu and it’s still not too late to vaccinate this season,” he said this week.
“This is particularly important for people who are at risk, including people who are pregnant, over 65 years of age, have severe asthma, diabetes and heart conditions, as well as Aboriginal people aged six months to five years and over 15 years of age.
“The vaccination is free for these groups under the National Immunisation Program.”
Mr Fahy said there were other “simple things everyone can do” to prevent getting flu or passing it on to others.
“Wash your hands regularly, cover coughs and sneezes, and encourage others to do so as well,” he said.
“Ask sick people to stay away until they are well. If you are vulnerable to severe influenza see your doctor as soon as flu symptoms start as early treatment of flu can help prevent complications.”
The director told of the health district’s current Right Care, Right Time, Right Place campaign. It seeks to inform people of options for obtaining health care advice and treatment when they are not “experiencing an emergency”.
“The best thing that people can do is to take action to stop getting sick,” he said. “If they do become ill, they should do what they can to prevent spreading it, and if they need help, they should seek the right kind of care depending on their symptoms.”
Mr Fahy said people experiencing an emergency, “for instance chest pains or problems breathing”, should call Triple 0 or go to an emergency department.
“For less severe symptoms, see your GP or even speak to your local pharmacist,” he said. “There’s also a 24-hour service available called HealthDirect which provides access to health professionals who can talk to you about your symptoms and provide advice.” HealthDirect can be contacted by calling 1800 022 222.
Australia is reported to be having its worst flu season in 15 years with 71,256 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, 35,727 of them in NSW.