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Summer flu outbreak across Torres and Cape HHS

25 January 2019

Health authorities are managing a summer flu outbreak on Cape York Peninsula and in the Torres Strait.

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Executive Director of Medical Services Dr Tony Brown said 20 confirmed cases of influenza A had been confirmed so far this year, compared with four for the same period in 2018.

“Cases have been reported from Napranum, Weipa, Lockhart River, Coen and Thursday Island,’’ he said.

“However, notified cases are always only the tip of the iceberg.

“More cases occur who may not be so sick as to go to the doctor or their health service, or may not be tested.

“We must remain vigilant during 2019 because, as we saw with a spike in cases state-wide in late 2018, flu can occur at any time of the year and every flu season can be different.

“Flu can give you a sudden illness with fever, cough and body pains.

“Being vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu.

“You need to be vaccinated every year to keep yourself protected, because vaccine protection slowly wears off, and flu strains may change annually so you might not be immune to newer strains.

“If you didn’t have your flu vaccination last year, you can still go and get vaccinated.

“This will provide protection until the new season 2019 flu vaccine becomes available in April/May.

“Good hygiene is also important. The best way to prevent the spread of flu is to wash your hands, cover your coughs, put tissues straight in the bin and stay away from other people if you or they are sick.

“Even one or two metres away will mean coughs and sneezes don’t reach another person’s face.

“If you get the flu you should stay home and rest and drink plenty of fluids.’’

Dr Brown said flu could be a serious illness, especially for high-risk people like young children, old people, pregnant women and people with some illnesses – like breathing problems or diabetes.

“If you or your family member is getting sicker, they may have fast or difficult breathing, have chest pains, be sleepy or say they are getting worse,’’ he said.

“If this happens, they should go to your clinic, especially if they are in one of the risk groups.

“While healthy adults usually recover quite well, influenza infection can lead to other medical complications such as pneumonia.’’

Dr Brown said a free influenza vaccine was available for all adults aged 65 years and older, all pregnant women, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged from six months to five years and from 15 years and older, and all individuals 6 months and older with medical conditions predisposing them to severe influenza.

“In addition to the Commonwealth-funded free vaccination program, the Queensland Government is also funding a Childhood Influenza Program for all children aged from six months to under five years,’’ Dr Brown said.

The free flu vaccination is available through Torres and Cape HHS primary health care centres, as well as from other immunisation providers in the region such as private GPs and nongovernment Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services.

Watch a short video on why influenza vaccinations for children are important.

Visit Influenza (the Flu) for more information.

PHOTO CAPTION: Dr Tony Brown, Executive Director of Medical Services

Last updated: 15 February 2019