Influenza and COVID continue to circulate in region

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Cases of influenza and COVID-19 are continuing to circulate across Cape York, the Torres Strait, and the Northern Peninsula Area, as they are across Queensland.

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Public Health Medical Officer Dr Allison Hempenstall said 950 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza had been recorded so far this year.

“We’ve also had 350 cases of COVID-19 to date,’’ she said.

“As always, vaccination remains our best protection against both influenza and COVID–19.

“I encourage all residents to ensure their vaccinations are up to date, including COVID-19 boosters, which are available through our primary health care centres.’’

More information about recommended COVID-19 doses is available on the Federal Government’s Department of Health website.

“While being vaccinated will not prevent you getting COVID-19, vaccination has been proven to reduce the severity of the illness and help keep you out of hospital and, especially, out of intensive care,’’ Dr Hempenstall said.

“The seasonal flu vaccine also is readily available and everyone should take the opportunity to be vaccinated.

“The seasonal flu vaccine is a safe vaccine for children and is offered annually to everyone older than six months of age.

“The flu vaccine is free for people who are most at risk, including children aged 6 months to less than 5 years, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people aged 65 years and older, people who are pregnant, and people who have certain medical conditions.

“But as well as vaccination, good hygiene also is very important in preventing the spread of flu and COVID-19.

“Always wash your hands with sanitiser, cover your coughs, put tissues straight in the bin and stay away from other people if you or they are sick.

“Practising social distancing by staying at least 1.5 metres away – think three big steps as recommended during the recent COVID-19 pandemic – will mean coughs and sneezes don’t reach another person’s face.

“Wearing a mask also is highly recommended to avoid transmitting the flu or COVID-19 to others, or to protect yourself from people around you who might have the flu or COVID-19.

“If you get the flu, you should stay home and rest and drink plenty of fluids until symptoms have resolved, which is usually 5-7 days.

“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.

“If this happens, they should go to their doctor or clinic, as you may be suitable to receive anti- viral treatment.

“But you should seek care early, especially if you have other chronic conditions, as antivirals are only effective if started early – within the first couple of days of symptoms.’’

Dr Hempenstall said the flu and COVID-19 could be serious illnesses, especially for high-risk people like young children, old people, pregnant women, and people with some illnesses – like breathing problems or diabetes.

As well as flu and COVID-19, 126 cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) have been recorded across the health service region so far this year.

Dr Hempenstall said RSV was a common virus which generally caused minor illness but could be severe in individuals with weakened immune systems or young children.

“A single RSV infection does not result in long-lasting protective immunity, and symptomatic illness tends to occur repetitively in children,’’ she said.

“Symptoms may include a runny nose, cough, fever, sore throat, and headache.

“While there is no vaccine for RSV, we encourage people to prevent the spread by practising good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette – just like for the flu and COVID-19.’’