Not too late to protect against flu

THIS year’s Border flu season is shaping as far worse than last year but it’s still not too late to get immunised.

The national Influenza Specialist Group revealed yesterday the number of cases in Australia was almost double that of winter last year.

Director of public health in Albury Tracey Oakman said what the group was suggesting could be translated to the Albury area.

“We have definitely seen an increase in presentations with influenza-like symptoms,” she said.

“In terms of notifications, the thing about it too is we haven’t had many made officially.

“But people don’t get tested for flu. They go to the doctor, they get treated or are told to stay home to get over it.”

What was more likely to tell the story was the number of presentations at hospital or GPs.

More than 5000 cases of the H3N2 and Type B strains have been diagnosed across Australia.

Ms Oakman said it was not too late to be vaccinated.

“The vaccine takes about two to three weeks to be effective,” she said.

“It appears that there is a bit of a new strain of influenza that’s been quite common but the vaccine is effective against it.

“We often see the worst period of flu around August, so if people get vaccinated now, when there’s a lot more flu around in August they’ll be protected.”

Queensland is the worst-affected state with 2536 diagnosed cases, followed by NSW with 2391.

Nationwide, children under nine were the hardest hit.

There had also been a rise in the number of elderly people and those aged 35 to 44 who were contracting the virus.

Influenza Specialist Group chairman Alan Hampson said the fact the H3N2 and Type B strains had not been prominent for the past few years could increase this season’s severity.

Ms Oakman said she encouraged pregnant women, the elderly, people with underlying chronic illnesses and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders over 15 to get the vaccine.

“The other thing of course is if you do have the flu, don’t go and spread it to everyone,” she said.

“Stay home, or if you need to go to the doctor make sure you cough or sneeze into a tissue and wash your hands well.”

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