Over-65s ?should get flu vaccines

By DAWN COHEN

EVERYONE aged over 65 should get vaccinated against the flu before a pandemic hits Australia, the North Coast Area Health Service has warned.

Immunisation co-ordinator, Ms Marianne Trent, issued the warning yesterday, adding that Aboriginal people aged over 50 and the chronically unwell also should get vaccinated.

She said there was a 10 per cent chance of an influenza pandemic in Australia.

"We can give vaccines were that to happen, but prevention is better than cure," she said. "Flu can have seri- ous consequences such as pneumonia."

The elderly and those in poor health are more at risk.

Ms Trent said the Northern Rivers usually has a late flu season.

"It takes off gradually from the end of June and builds up," she said. "It is hard to estimate numbers because only a few get tests."

On Tuesday, the Federal Health Minister, Tony Abbott, warned Australia that an influenza pandemic was a concern.

He released a detailed pandemic management plan if disaster struck.

The North Coast Area Health Service spokesman Robin Osborne said a general winter strategy ensured hospital stays were briefer than in the past.

"We free up beds for emergencies," he said.

If there were a pandemic, Lismore Base Hospital could establish flu clinics in the grounds rather than in the emergency department to isolate the virus, the area's health disaster co-ordinator, Anne O'Donoghue, said.

"It is also possible the State would establish specific flu hospitals," she said.

New vaccines are created each year for Australia, based on the flu strains dominant in the Northern Hemisphere during its winter.



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