The number of people coming down with the flu is on the rise, with Bendigo Health seeing a significant increase in confirmed cases in the past fortnight.
Infection prevention control manager Jane Hellsten said there had been a couple of influenza “type A” outbreaks in the region, including one at an aged care facility and another at a regional hospital.
“When it hits, it soon spreads around the community,” she said.
“We’re alerting the community there is influenza A in the community and there is a vaccine available.”
Ms Hellsten said August and September was traditionally the peak time for the flu, but in the past couple of weeks, 12 cases had been confirmed in the region. Normally, the hospital would see the odd one here and there throughout winter.
“Locally it’s more prevalent this year in our community,” she said.
“We’re starting to see it peak now so it could get worse.”
Across the state, 3494 cases of influenza had been reported to the Department of Health up until July 10 this year – up 90 per cent compared to this time last year.
Victoria’s deputy chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton said on Monday there was no shortage of vaccine supplies across the state and everyone, especially people at most risk of contracting the flu, should be immunised.
“Influenza vaccine is available from general practitioners, many of whom also have practice nurses who are skilled at immunisation and also from pharmacists who are qualified and trained to give immunisations,” Dr Sutton said.
“The elderly, infants, those with chronic conditions such as heart or lung disease, renal failure, diabetes and chronic neurological conditions, the immuno-compromised, pregnant women and smokers should all be immunised.”
Ms Hellsten said vaccination and good respiratory hygiene would go a long way in protecting people from the flu.
“The vaccine this year has protection against two influenza A strains and two influenza B strains,” she said.
“It’s not too late to have the flu vaccination – in fact it’s extremely timely to have it now because it is in our community.”
Symptoms for the flu include fever, headache, myalgia, lethargy, coryza, sore throat and cough. Infections in children may also be associated with gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Ms Hellsten encouraged people who came down with the flu to stay at home and practice good hygiene.
Free annual influenza vaccine is provided and recommended for the following groups in Victoria:
- people aged 65 years and older
- pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months to 4 years of age inclusive, and 15 years and older
- residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- those aged 6 months or older with conditions predisposing to severe illness following influenza infection.
More information on influenza is available at the Better Health Channel: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/flu-influenza