THE number of people getting flu shots is up 30 per cent on this time last year, as the region’s residents strive to avoid being a casualty after the deadly 2017 season.
Still, 250 people in the Hunter New England Health region have contracted the serious illness this year.
Public health physician David Durrheim said he would “strongly encourage” people to get the jab well before the peak season hits in August and September.
“[Demand after 2017] led to a national shortage of vaccines, which is now being addressed so vaccines are now coming back into supply,” Dr Durrheim said.
“There was a huge demand, a lot of publicity, and I think people took the information very seriously after the previous season …
“Anyone that has been considering it, we strongly encourage them to do so.
“It’s not too late.
“Anybody in the elderly group, anybody with a chronic illness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and kiddies under five should [especially] make sure they’re protected.”
The year to date
The 250 flu cases compare to 335 at the same time last year, Dr Durrheim said.
The health service’s latest communicable diseases report stated that “influenza activity continued to be low across all NSW local health districts throughout May”.
Dr Durrheim said most people were going to their GP for the shot, while others were being vaccinated in aged care, at their local pharmacies or through workplace wellness programs.
“The health services are also ensuring frontline health staff are vaccinated, because I think there’s an obligation that people admitted to hospital don’t want to be exposed to influenza.”
Dr Durrheim said it took “about 10 to 14 days to get the full benefit of the vaccine and develop a strong immune response”.
“We encourage anybody who’s not yet vaccinated – now is a very good time.”
Federal health minister Greg Hunt said in mid-April that 2017 “saw the highest influenza activity in Australia in almost a decade, mirroring a global trend, with more than 250,000 Australians testing positive for influenza and double the normal hospitalisations”.
According to a summary from the National Influenza Surveillance Committee, there were 745 deaths resulting from lab-confirmed flu cases in 2017.
The five-year average was 176 per year.
However, it was noted in the summary that “mortality is consistent with recent years when taking into account the significant increase in notifications of laboratory-confirmed influenza”.