Flu vaccinations recommended after thousands afflicted in 2016

Experts say people need to get flu shots after a spate of associated deaths and hospitalisations last year.

More than 35,000 people were infected with the flu across NSW in 2016, with 215 flu-related deaths and close to 200 hospitalisations as a result of the virus.

The region’s acting director of public health, Alison Nikitas, recommended people get a flu shot to avoid the fevers, aches and pains that accompany the highly-infectious virus.

“We need to protect ourselves and we recommend anyone who wants to reduce the likelihood of catching the flu should be vaccinated,” Ms Nikitas said.

“There are quite a few people who can get a free flu vaccination ahead of the season.”

While flu was often confused with the common cold, Ms Nikitas said, there significant differences between the two illnesses.

“Flu is characterised by high fever, aches and pains and it can be quite debilitating, laying people up in bed for some time,” she said.

“The cold virus is more of the sneezing and runny noses, just as infectious but not as debilitating.”

Dr Jodi Culbert said there wasn’t a lot of scientific evidence behind many over-the-counter remedies, recommending basic hygiene and common sense instead.

“Keeping fit and eating a healthy diet, those things that generally promote good health, they will give your body the best chance to fight off these illnesses,” Dr Culbert said.

“If you do get sick, make sure you take care of yourself and rest as needed, giving your immune system time to work.

“Practice good hygiene, covering your mouth and hands with a tissue when you’re coughing and sneezing and stay home from work to prevent spreading the sickness.”

Among those most at risk of the flu are pregnant women, over-65’s and people with chronic health conditions like diabetes, asthma and heart disease.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, director of communicable diseases for NSW Health, said it was vital for pregnant women to have the flu jab as they had an increased risk of hospitalisation, intensive care admission, pre-term delivery and possibly death if they caught the flu.

“The flu vaccination is very safe for expectant mothers and their babies and also provides protection in the infant’s early months,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“Pregnant women and people of all ages with chronic disease in Australia can receive the vaccination for free so I urge all eligible people to take up this opportunity to protect themselves and prevent unnecessary hospitalisation.

“Children born to vaccinated mothers have a reduced risk of contracting influenza in the first months of life.”


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