‘Stay home’: Killer flu warning
Australia's flu season has taken a dangerous turn, with death tolls spiking across the nation, as health experts urge people to "stay home" if they are sick.
The major rise in flu cases across the country has left GPs concerned that people are not taking appropriate hygiene measures or leave from work, causing the virus to spread through the community.
State health departments are on high alert as this season's particularly aggressive strain of influenza is seeing the public presenting to local emergency departments in alarming numbers.
Health Ministers are also making public pleas to their communities to get vaccinated, wash their hands regularly and avoid public places if they are feeling unwell.
In Victoria, the flu has claimed 31 lives this year alone - nine times higher than this time last year.
New data released by Vic Health recorded 18,644 cases of the flu across the state, between January 1 and June 15 this year alone.
That number is more than seven times higher than the state's average, this time last year.
The state's health minister, Jenny Mikakos, pleaded with the public to get their flu vaccinations and heed simple hygiene precautions to avoid spreading the virus.
"Sadly, we've had 31 confirmed flu deaths so far this year, the vast majority of those (were) elderly members of the community living in nursing homes," Ms Mikakos told the media yesterday.
Of those 31 cases, three were children.
"We have seen a very significant spike in flu cases in recent weeks," Ms Mikakos said.
The most recent Influenza Surveillance Report by the NSW Department of Health found that the state has recorded almost 3000 flu cases - as of June 14 - and 49 confirmed deaths.
"Influenza activity continues to be high across all NSW local health districts," the report found. "Respiratory presentations to NSW emergency departments increased and remained high in most districts."
The majority of flu-related deaths were among people aged 65 and older.
NSW Health Director of Communicable Diseases, Vicky Sheppeard urged people to listen to their bodies and "stay home" if they were unwell.
"If you are unwell with the flu, stay at home and minimise contact with other people if possible, especially those who are particularly vulnerable, such as young children and the elderly," Dr Sheppeard said.
"Avoid visiting aged care facilities and child care centres until you have recovered."
The death toll in South Australia has reached 42 this year, with two deaths recorded in the past week alone.
More than 18,300 people were struck down with the influenza virus across the state, a significant jump from the 1480 cases recorded the same time last year.
Nine News reports that health minister Stephen Wade has been urging the public to book in for their flu shot as soon as possible.
"It's very important that South Australians take the opportunity to be vaccinated against the flu," Mr Wade said.
The state's Acting Chief Medical Officer Nicola Spurrier said health professionals have had a significant increase in demand for the vaccine.
"We don't have a problem with vaccine supply but because we have an increase in, demand it is difficult for the warehouse and the doctors to make sure they have the stocks," Dr Spurrier said.
The Sunshine State has experienced a spike in flu-related deaths as well, with more than 25 deaths recorded, as of mid-May.
A report by The Courier-Mail early this month found public hospital admissions for influenza are more than double the five-year average.
GPs have raised concerns over flu vaccinations stocks for the flu season, with one doctor's surgery in Brisbane's northwest writing on their website they were "livid" about dwindling supplies, according to The Courier-Mail.
"We are livid about this as were reassured by our suppliers that this would not happen considering it has happened in previous years," Newmarket Family Doctors wrote on their website.
"We have checked many pharmacies in the area and they are in the same predicament.
"We are working with several suppliers to source stock and at this stage we have been given a tentative day of 10 June to get new stock."
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