Flu cases continue to rise across NSW

Jab push: Flu shots are free for under-five-year-old children among other at-risk people. Picture: Simone De Peak
Jab push: Flu shots are free for under-five-year-old children among other at-risk people. Picture: Simone De Peak

Not even one whole month of winter has passed and this year's flu season is peaking to be a critical one especially for children, says NSW Health.

Flu cases continue to rise, prompting the state health department to again urge parents to take advantage of free influenza vaccine for under-fives.

NSW Health Director of Communicable Disease, Vicky Sheppeard, says 115 children have been admitted to Children's Hospital Westmead with flu this year, including two needing critical care, and encouraged parents to vaccinate their children as soon as possible.

"With flu cases still on the rise, we're encouraging everyone, particularly pregnant women and parents of young children, to get their flu shots immediately," Dr Sheppeard said.

The latest weekly Influenza Surveillance Report shows 3796 flu cases for the week ending 16 June, up from 3288 notifications the previous week and one additional death of a person over 65 years, bringing the annual total to 50 confirmed deaths.

Dr Sheppeard says 2.37 million doses of government-funded flu vaccines have been distributed across NSW, including over 176,000 doses for children 6 months to 3 years, and 1.17 million doses for people 65 years and over.

"There has been strong demand, but there are sufficient supplies of free government-funded vaccines available for eligible people," she said.

"So we are again encouraging parents and carers of children from 6 months up to five years old to take advantage of the free flu vaccine.

"If you are unwell with the flu, stay at home and minimise contact with other people if possible, especially those who are particularly vulnerable, such as young children and the elderly. Avoid visiting aged care facilities and child care centres until you have recovered."

NSW Poisons Information Centre has also urged parents not to give children under six years of age, cough and cold medicines.

There is often no dosage information available for this age group and the medications may cause harm.

Safer alternative treatments include plenty of rest, a regular fluid intake, paracetamol or ibuprofen to help with pain or fever, and saline nose drops to help unblock stuffy noses.

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 about $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.