NINE people have died in a horror start to the flu season in NSW, with four times as many cases in Western NSW this year when compared to 2018.
The region is experiencing a higher than usual influenza activity, which in line with the rest of Australia.
So far this year, there have been 175 cases of flu in the Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) which is significantly up compared to the 43 cases during the same period last year.
"Emergency departments are continuing to report higher than usual numbers of presentations for respiratory illnesses and influenza-like illness," a WNSWLHD spokeswoman said.
"There have been no reported deaths from influenza in Western NSW this year or in 2018."
Across the state there have been more than 10,000 confirmed cases of influenza, compared fewer than 4000 for the same period in 2018.
Despite the higher number of flu cases, less people have died from the illness with nine so far this year compared to an annual total of 43 during 2018.
The WNSWLHD spokeswoman urged anyone with a fever, cough or runny nose to postpone visiting elderly relatives until you have recovered.
"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," she said.
The WNSWLHD spokeswoman said it was not too late to get a flu vaccination with April and May the best time to be vaccinated.
"There are a number of people who can receive the influenza vaccination free of charge," she said.
"These groups of people are generally those who have poorer outcomes if they acquire the flu."
Free flu vaccines
People eligible for free influenza vaccine include:
- Children from six months up to five years of age
- Aboriginal people six months and older
- Pregnant women
- People with serious underlying health conditions
- People aged 65 years and older
To date in 2019, NSW Health has distributed more than 1.6 million doses of government-funded influenza vaccine to GPs, hospitals, Aboriginal medical services and children's vaccination clinics.
This includes 835,000 doses of flu vaccine for people aged 65 and older.