Torres Strait, Cape York and NPA residents urged to take up fluvax

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  • Flu vaccination in TCHHS so far had been slower than expected.
  • The State Government has made the flu vaccine available free to all Queenslanders
  • Vaccination remains our best protection against respiratory conditions like influenza .

With this year’s influenza season now more than a month under way, health authorities are keen for more Cape York, Torres Strait, and Northern Peninsula Area residents to take up the seasonal flu vaccination.

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Public Health Medical Officer Dr Allison Hempenstall said take-up of the flu vaccination so far had been slower than expected.

“So far, we have had only between 2 per cent and 14 per cent take-up of the flu vaccination across our various communities,’’ she said. “This is much lower than we would like and means many people across our health service region are still unprotected.’’

So far this year, 182 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza had been recorded, with 27 cases hospitalised to date. Dr Hempenstall said the 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.

“As always, vaccination remains our best protection against respiratory conditions like influenza,’’ she said.“This year, as last year, the State Government has made the flu vaccine available free to all Queenslanders and not just those in at-risk groups.

“It is recommended that everyone aged six months and older get a flu vaccine this year – it is the single most important measure many of us can take to protect each other. “Young people in particular play an important role in getting vaccinated as they are considered superspreaders.

“You need to be vaccinated every year to keep yourself protected because flu strains change annually, and you will not be immune to these new strains which are covered in this year’s vaccine. “I encourage everyone to take the opportunity protect themselves and be vaccinated.

“As well as at GPs and pharmacies, the free vaccines are available through all primary health centres in the Torres Strait, Cape York, and Northern Peninsula Area, as well as at clinics at Thursday Island and Bamaga hospitals, the Weipa Integrated Health Service, and the Cooktown Multipurpose Health Service.

“Expanding access to flu vaccines to everyone has the potential to break the chain of transmission, so I encourage every Cape York, Torres Strait and NPA resident to take advantage of a free flu vaccination.’’

Dr Hempenstall said good hygiene also was very important in preventing the spread of respiratory conditions like flu. “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,’’ she said. “Practising social distancing by staying at least 1.5m away, will mean coughs and sneezes don’t reach another person’s face.

“Wearing a mask also is highly recommended to avoid transmitting a respiratory illness to others, or to protect yourself from people around you who might have a respiratory illness. “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.’’