Unprecedented start to flu season a reminder to get vaccination

Stuart McGuckinSouth Western Times

An unprecedented early start to the flu season has led to South West residents again being reminded to get their annual flu vaccinations as well as taking other precautions this winter.

South West population health physician Dr Tania Wallace said there had been more than 200 laboratory-proven of cases of the flu through April and May.

She said there had been nothing different about how flu symptoms had been presenting.

“In previous years there would have only been about seven cases in those two months,” she said.

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“We’ve already reached the peaks we’ve seen in previous years, the difference is that those peaks are normally in July and August.

“This is very unseasonal and its occurred across the whole of Australia.”

She said because the early start to the season was unprecedented, experts were unsure whether reported cases would continue to climb during winter or drop off.

“Either way the messages are the same for the public about protecting themselves,” she said.

“The most important way to protect yourself against the flu is to get your annual immunisation.

“It not only limits the chance that you will get the flu, but also the chances you would transmit it to family, friends and colleagues.”

Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, pregnant women, people aged 65 or over, children aged below five and those with chronic medical conditions can get the vaccination for free as part of the Federal Government’s National Immunisation Program.

“Anyone else can get a vaccine by purchasing through a private script or attending a pharmacist,” Dr Wallace said.

An extra 40,000 doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive in WA this week after supplies in non-government programs were reduced to near zero

Those who did get the flu were encouraged to practice good hygiene.

“It’s not just about vaccination,” Dr Wallace said.

“If you are sick with the flu you should be staying away from work and other people, particularly those more vulnerable.

“It’s hand hygiene and using cough–sneeze etiquette, which is coughing into a tissue or turning away and coughing into your elbow.

“The concept of social distancing is also important because flu droplets tend to spread less than a metre – if you have to be around people we say keep more than a metre apart.

“It is a serious disease which can result in hospitalisation and death.”

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