“We’ve seen abnormally high numbers of reported flu cases across Australia over the warmer months leading into winter, so we are urging people to act now and get vaccinated.
“It’s important to act now because it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective, and children under nine years of age having the shot for the first time require two doses, one month apart.”
The first of the 2019 weekly Influenza Surveillance Reports shows that the flu season has commenced early in the year, with 856 confirmed flu cases for the week ending 12 May, higher than the 812 notifications in the previous week.
“There are plentiful supplies of influenza vaccine and we urge parents of children under 5 years of age and others vulnerable to influenza to visit their GP as soon as possible,” she said.
The NSW Government is spending a record $22.75 million on statewide immunisation programs which will assist with flu prevention this season. This includes $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.
The NSW Government has invested approximately $130 million in the 2018-19 Immunisation Program budget, including Commonwealth and state vaccines.
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.
Vaccination is the best protection against the flu, but the following steps also help prevent the spread of influenza:
Cough and sneeze into your elbow;
Clean your hands;
Stay home when sick.
“We urge everyone to get the flu jab to build immunity in the community and beat the flu bug this winter – it could save your life,” Dr Sheppeard said.
NSW Health is closely monitoring flu case numbers and issuing an Influenza Surveillance Weekly Report every Friday to keep the community up to date on influenza activity.