Central West residents warned as influenza outbreaks come early

Central West residents warned as influenza outbreaks come early

Central West residents are advised to take precautions and stay away from aged care facilities in the wake of influenza outbreaks in the state.

The Western NSW Local Health District, which provides health services in Bathurst, Orange, Dubbo and most parts of the Central West, has reported six confirmed cases in the four weeks to March 3.

There were more influenza cases in the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, which provides health services in Lithgow.

It reported 31 cases in the four weeks to March 3.

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NSW Health communicable diseases branch director Dr Vicky Sheppeard said several factors were contributing to the high level of unseasonable flu cases.

"Some of the increase follows a late influenza season across tropical parts of Australia, which affected northern NSW, and now it's likely that travellers returning from the northern hemisphere are bringing flu home with them," Dr Sheppeard said.

"Unusually high levels of influenza activity are being seen in most states and territories, with the national reporting rate more than three times the average for this time of year."

A total of 2244 influenza cases were reported in the state in the four weeks to March 3 - almost double the 1144 notifications in February last year.

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NSW Health is advising people to stay away from aged care facilities.

"There were 13 influenza outbreaks reported in February," according to NSW Health's Influenza Monthly Epidemiology report. 

"This is by far the highest number of influenza outbreaks reported This is by far the highest number of influenza outbreaks reported for this time of year in the past eight years." 

Eight outbreaks at aged care facilities were reported in February.

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Dr Sheppeard said it's unlikely the high number of cases will lead to widespread infection in the community, but it is concerning to see outbreaks at aged care facilities.

"Residents of aged care facilities will have little immunity left from last year's flu vaccine, so it's important to not expose them to the risk of influenza," Dr Sheppeard said.

"If you have a fever, cough or runny nose, please postpone visiting elderly relatives until you recover.

"If you have symptoms of flu, it's important to prevent the spread by coughing and sneezing into your elbow, washing your hands regularly, and staying home if you're unwell."

Publicly funded vaccines for high risk people will be available across Australia from mid-April.

This story Central West residents warned as influenza outbreaks come early first appeared on Western Advocate.