Worry over low flu shot rates

THE simple flu can be responsible for hospital gridlock, so the Northern NSW Health Network is asking residents to immunise themselves against the illness.

Data shows hospital admissions between July and September typically rise by around 4%, with the average length of a hospital stay also increasing, according to Northern NSW Health Network chief executive Chris Crawford.

And that’s mainly due to the flu.

“There are simple steps everyone can take this winter to prevent the spread of flu, which has a serious impact on the general health of the community, the public health system and affects businesses across NSW,” Mr Crawford said.

“Our hospitals can experience patient demand peaks during the winter season.

“With extra admissions to our hospitals occurring it is important for the community to be aware it may be necessary to transfer a chronically ill patient from one of our major hospitals to a smaller hospital during the later stage of the patients’ treatment so new critically ill patients can be admitted to a major hospital to access high-level care.”

So far this year there have been 49 cases of flu reported; the average over the past five years has been 18.

The rates of vaccination rates across the Northern NSW Health Network is below the State average of 70%, at 66.5% for men and 72.9% for women.

“There is no doubt that people die every year from flu-related illnesses,” Paul Corben, the director of public health for the North Coast, said.

“Quite often people get the flu, and then pneumonia, and that is a common cause of death for the elderly.”

Mr Corben said for those at risk it was advisable to receive a flu vaccination each year as the virus could often change.

For most a flu vaccination will cost $20, while it is free for those over 65, any Aboriginal person aged over 15, pregnant women, infants over six months with a medical condition and those with related illnesses.

 

AVOIDING FLU

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and running water
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid close contact with sick people


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