Our record flu season has decimated Gympie homes, schools and work places - and it's not over yet.
Our record flu season has decimated Gympie homes, schools and work places - and it's not over yet. Chris McCormack/cm167998

Gympie's flu season 'twice' as bad and weeks to go

IT'S official - the record breaking flu season decimating households, workplaces and classrooms throughout the Gympie region has recorded more than twice as many victims as usual - and it may not peak for weeks yet.

The good news is, the official figures seem to indicate the Gympie region has been least hardest hit of the communities within the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service area.

So far this year, 1897 cases of influenza in the SCHHS (which also includes Noosa and the Sunshine Coast) have been notified to Queensland Health. This is only the people who see a doctor and are tested. The notification rate has been higher in the Noosa (279 - or 535 per 100,000 of population) and Sunshine Coast (1479) council areas. Up to August 22, there had been 139 reported cases of influenza in the Gympie region (280 per 100,000 of population), though public health physician Dr Andrew Langley said this may reflect differences in testing practices and/or residents' tendencies to seek healthcare.

"For the SCHHS region overall and each council area, cases reported this year are more than twice the average at this time of year for the past five years,” Dr Langley said.

"Most of this year's cases have occurred in the past month. As at August 20, there had been 131 admissions to public hospitals of people with influenza in the SCHHS area.”

Over the past week, an extra 4749 flu cases have been identified in Queensland, bringing the 2017 total to 24,605.

Health and Ambulance Services Minister Cameron Dick said following the recent spike in flu cases, it was timely to remind people that taking simple, sensible precautions could still make a difference.

"We want everybody 'flu fighting'. There are practical steps we can all take to stop catching or spreading the flu,” Mr Dick said

Mr Dick said the five key flu fighting strategies health officials wanted the public to adopt were:

Get vaccinated

Consider seeing a GP or calling a nurse for free on 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84), instead of going to an emergency department

Wash your hands

Stay home if you're sick

Cover your cough with a tissue or your arm

"We are seeing a big impact in our emergency departments,” Mr Dick said.

"The Palaszczuk Government has put extra resources into hospitals and the Queensland Ambulance Service through the $10 million South East Queensland Emergency Care Action Plan and 90 extra hospital beds under the $15 million Winter Beds Strategy.

"The SEQ Emergency Care Action Plan includes new models of care, increased hospital capacity and 40 new frontline paramedics.

"While these initiatives are helping ease the burden on the health system, we need the community to help as well.”

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the Flu Five could make a big difference.

"The best defence against the flu is to get a vaccination,” Dr Young said.

"It is never too late to vaccinate - this flu season is not yet over.

"The current vaccine provides protection against four strains of the flu that Queenslanders are experiencing this year.

"In addition to getting vaccinated, there are practical steps we can all take to avoid catching the flu or to limit its spread, and it can be as simple as staying at home when sick.

"Other easy steps include using proper cough and sneeze etiquette, which means cough into a tissue or your arm if you don't have tissues handy, and throw used tissues away immediately.

"Also make sure you wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water, or use hand gel frequently, when in potential contact with the flu virus.”

Dr Young said the vaccine was safe for anyone over the age of six months, and this includes pregnant women, with the vaccine protecting both mother and child from the effects of an influenza infection.

"Influenza can be deadly for some people in high-risk categories, so it's crucial we all play our part to help stop it spreading and reduce its effects on the community,” she said.

Latest influenza numbers:

  • So far this year, there have been 24,605 flu notifications
  • In 2017 so far, about 75% (18,493) of notifications were typed as influenza A and the remaining 25% (6,112) were influenza B.
  • So far this year, we've seen 2641 public hospital admissions across the state for influenza, and 281 of those required intensive care, including 31 new admissions to ICU during the recent week.
  • There were 4749 new confirmed flu cases in the latest reporting week (August 14-20).

Queenslanders eligible for the government-funded influenza vaccine can access it from their doctor or immunisation provider. Those eligible for the funded vaccine are:

  • pregnant women during any stage of pregnancy
  • persons 65 years of age or older
  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children aged 6 months to 5 years
  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people 15 years of age or older
  • People six months of age or older who have certain medical conditions which increase the risk of influenza disease complications.

All other Queenslanders can obtain the influenza vaccination from their doctor, immunisation provider or some community pharmacies. 

For more details, phone 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84), your GP or immunisation provider.

Gympie Times

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