A SHARP increase in influenza cases has prompted a warning from health authorities for Ipswich residents to organise vaccinations - now.
Already this year the number of influenza cases across West Moreton has tripled compared with the same period last year and residents are being told to organise vaccinations this week.
Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection that causes fever, severe aches and often spreads through communities as an epidemic.
This year more than 125 cases of influenza have been reported in the West Moreton region; that's 3.6 times higher than the same period last year.
The infection causes an average of 13,500 hospitalisations each year and more than 3,000 deaths, according to the Australian Federal Health Department.
Those eligible for government-funding vaccinations should organise an appointment with their doctor this week, health authorities say.
West Moreton Hospital and Health Service Infection Prevention Specialist Denise Noy says many people in the community wrongly refer to the common cold as "the flu".
"The early symptoms of a cold or flu are similar, however while a cold can last seven to 10 days, the flu can last several weeks," Ms Noy said.
"The flu is highly contagious and the symptoms are more severe which often lead to more serious illnesses including pneumonia and hospitalisation.
"In addition to a runny nose, sore throat and coughing, flu sufferers may also experience an intense headache, a sudden onset of high fever, muscular pains and extreme fatigue.
"The most effective form of prevention is to ensure you have a flu vaccine now before winter starts because it takes two weeks for the vaccine to take effect.
"A yearly vaccination can provide individuals with protection from the flu which lasts up to 12 months and is highly recommended for everyone in the community.
"The vaccine will stimulate the body's immune system, helping to fight off any infection."
West Moreton Hopsital and Health Service is following vaccination advice from the World Health Organisation. The 2017 vaccination will cover two A strains of influenza and two B strains of influenza.
Vaccinations can purchased from GPs, an immunisation provider or a local pharmacist.
Are you eligible for a free vaccine?
- pregnant women during any stage of pregnancy
- people 65 years of age or older
- Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children aged six months to five 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.
How to avoid spreading the flu
- Throw your tissue in a plastic-lined rubbish bin after use
- Wash your hands with soap and water and if water is unavailable use an alcohol-based hand cleaner after you cough or sneeze
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth as germs spread easily
- Don't go to work if you are unwell and don't send children to school or childcare if they are unwell
- Keep surfaces such as door handles, kitchen bench tops, phones and keyboards clean
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
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