North Coast health authorities are urging members of the community to access the 2017 flu vaccine.
North Coast health authorities are urging members of the community to access the 2017 flu vaccine. Warren Lynam

Anti-vaxxers behind North Coast flu crisis: MP

A FLU epidemic sweeping the state has "smashed" the North Coast and put unnecessary pressure on local health services, says the NSW Opposition.

NSW Opposition health spokesman Walt Secord said the flu season was smashing the North Coast, which has the third highest number of confirmed flu cases in the state's health districts.

Mr Secord said outside Sydney, the North Coast had the highest number of cases in the community.

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NSW Health says that it is appearing at a rate of 13.7 per 100,000 people. Only Western Sydney and Sydney's north shore had higher rates in NSW.

He attributed the North Coast higher rates to small elements in the community who are reluctant to get vaccinations for themselves and loved ones.

Mr Secord said there was a need for a North Coast- specific flu and general vaccination community service campaign to combat the anti-vaxxer movement.

To this week there have been almost 6550 (6548) cases statewide, including 2576 notifications in June, almost double the number of flu notifications in June last year.

In NSW so far this year, there have been 18 influenza outbreaks in nursing homes with at least 246 residents with flu symptoms and 25 hospitalisations.

Fourteen deaths have been linked to these outbreaks, but they also had significant co-morbidities.

Mr Secord was also pointed to the NSW Health Influenza Surveillance Report for the week ending June 25 on 60 emergency departments across the state which revealed that:

The impact of influenza on the health sector is increasing.

The peak of influenza activity is likely to be at the end of July.

The flu can have serious consequences for the old, disabled or chronically ill.

Around 3000 Australians die each year from complications of colds and flu. The peak flu season is between June and August.

Mr Secord said the 2017 vaccines were adapted to take into account new emerging strains from the northern hemisphere.

The free flu shots are available to:

People aged 65 years and over;

Pregnant women;

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders between six months to five years and over 15; and

People aged six months and over with medical conditions including: cardiac disease, chronic respiratory conditions including severe asthma, other chronic illnesses requiring regular medical follow up or hospitalisation in the previous year, including diabetes, and chronic renal failure, chronic neurological conditions that impact on respiratory function, including multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, and seizure disorders; and impaired immunity, including HIV.

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