Image: vaccination

Central West residents are being urged to get their flu jabs this year and help avoid falling sick or infecting others, as flu numbers continue to rise.

Central Queensland Public Health Unit Director Dr Gulam Khandaker said 61 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza had been notified in the Central West region so far this year, including 12 that required hospitalisation.

“This is higher than the five-year mean of 17.2 notified cases that would normally be expected for the year to date,’’ he said.

“In addition, just in the week ending 28 July, the Central West recorded 10 new cases of flu, which was the single highest weekly notification number so far this year.

“However, notified cases are always only the tip of the iceberg. Many more cases occur who may not be so sick as to go to the doctor or may not be tested.

“Residents can still protect themselves and their families by making appointments with their immunisation providers to be vaccinated.

“Being vaccinated every year is the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu.

“But good hygiene is also very important.

“The best way to prevent the spread of flu is to wash your hands, cover your coughs, put tissues straight in the bin and stay away from other people if you or they are sick.

“Even one or two metres away will mean coughs and sneezes don’t reach another person’s face.

“If you get the flu you should stay home and rest and drink plenty of fluids until symptoms have resolved, which is usually 5-7 days.

“All these measures can also help prevent the spread of influenza.

“You need to be vaccinated every year to keep yourself protected because flu strains change annually, and you will not be immune to these new strains which are covered in this year’s vaccines.

“It’s just a few minutes of your time and it saves you from the risk of possibly becoming very sick if you catch the flu.

“While healthy adults usually recover quite well, influenza infection can lead to other medical complications such as pneumonia – and it can be deadly.

“Pregnant women are at high risk of flu complications including serious problems for their unborn babies and premature labour.’’

Dr Khandaker said it generally took 10 to 14 days after vaccination to be fully protected.

All children from 6 months to less than 5 years of age, adults aged 65 years and over, pregnant women, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and over, and individuals aged 6 months to under 65 years with medical conditions which increase the risk of influenza disease complications are eligible for a free influenza vaccine.

“Children under five years of age have some of the highest rates of influenza and associated complications,’’ Dr Khandaker said.

“We also know that children contribute greatly to the spread of influenza in the community, and serious complications from influenza can be devastating for children and their families.

“Annual immunisation against influenza is therefore important for all children and continues to be the best way to prevent the spread of influenza.’’

Dr Khandaker said the influenza vaccine was a safe vaccine for children and should be offered annually to everyone older than six months of age.

He said the vaccine did not contain live flu viruses and could not cause flu.

However, some people might experience mild flu-like symptoms for up to 48 hours as their immune system responded to the vaccine.

The free flu vaccination is available through Central West HHS primary health care centres, as well as from other immunisation providers in the region such as private GPs and non-government Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services.

However, while the vaccine is free for at risk groups, a consultation fee may apply at your GP.