GYMPIE and district government medical officer Dr George Springhall has warned the public of an early flu season this year.
He said he had been notified of an increase in general flu cases for this time of year, as well as more cases of swine flu reported than in previous years.
Dr Springhall urged people to remain calm, saying swine flu was not a killer flu and no more sinister than the regular influenza that went around every winter.
He said swine flu had typical flu symptoms and some people were more susceptible than others – just like the common flu.
“A flu shot each year before winter arrives is the best defence to prevent influenza,” he said.
“There are several simple steps everyone can take this winter to prevent the spread of flu.
"Basic good hygiene such as washing your hands thoroughly and covering your face with a tissue when you cough or sneeze will reduce the risk of passing on infections to other people.”
Most winters it is estimated that between 10 to 30 per cent of people get influenza and many require treatment in hospital.
Dr Springhall says getting the latest flu vaccination is crucial if you are at risk of severe complications as it also contains a swine flu vaccine.
He also advised to stay home if you have the flu so you don’t infect others, and avoid large gatherings of people if you want to remain healthy.
If you think you may have influenza and you need to see a doctor, call first so the clinic can take precautions to reduce the risk to other people.
Dr Springhall said data showed hospital admissions between July and September typically increased however, it was happening unseasonably early this year.
People at risk of complications are eligible for free influenza vaccine under the National Influenza Vaccination Program.
THESE GROUPS INCLUDE:
- All individuals aged 65 years or older
- All Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people aged 15 years or older
- Pregnant women
- Individuals aged 6 months and over with medical conditions predisposing to severe influenza, including cardiac disease, impaired immunity, respiratory and other chronic conditions
INFLUENZA FAST FACTS:
- Adults are most infectious in the first 3-5 days of their illness
- Influenza is a vaccine-preventable illness but people need to receive a new vaccine every year because influenza viruses change constantly
- People with a chronic disease have a 40 times increased risk of death from influenza
- 10% of all workplace absenteeism associated with illness is due to influenza
- In Australia, influenza on average causes 3,500 deaths, about 18,000 hospitalisations and 300,000 GP consultations each year