Winter is here and the Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) is urging people to be mindful of how best to be winter wise and remain healthy throughout the cold and flu season this year after higher than normal respiratory illness has been reported circulating in many local communities.
People are encouraged to see their GP when experiencing respiratory symptoms, with Emergency Departments across the WNSWLHD seeing an increase in people presenting with respiratory illness.
Director Population Health Dr Therese Jones said winter is a peak time for illness, but there are many things people can do to prevent getting sick, including getting the flu shot.
“Prevention is always better than cure and we strongly recommend people get the flu vaccination to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill,” Dr Jones said.
“The flu shot is still one of the best steps towards reducing your risk and it’s really important that people understand the flu vaccination does not cause the flu. This is a myth and it should not discourage people from getting the flu shot.”
“It is not too late to get the flu shot, and we are encouraging everyone in our local communities who have not yet had the flu shot to see their local GP or health practitioner to be vaccinated.”
The flu vaccine is free for people over 65 years of age, pregnant women, Aboriginal people aged 15 years or over, Aboriginal children aged 6 months to five years and people with underlying medical conditions predisposing them to severe influenza.
“People should remember to cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing, dispose of tissues into a bin straight away, and always wash your hands,” Dr Jones said.
Dr Jones said if people are unwell they should stay home from work, day care or school and avoid visiting family and friends, especially those that have chronic health conditions or are in hospitals or nursing homes.
“It’s important to minimise the risk of spreading disease to our family, friends and colleagues by avoiding contact whenever we can,” Dr Jones said.
“People will also recover more quickly by getting the rest they need when sick.”
The Health District would also like to take this opportunity to remind people that their local GP is the best point of call if they have flu symptoms, not the local hospital Emergency Department.
“We encourage people to avoid placing additional pressure on Emergency Departments which are for emergency medical conditions, not for cold symptoms,” Dr Jones said.
If you think you might have influenza and you need to see a doctor, please ask for a mask in the waiting room, and frequently use hand rub to avoid spreading germs to other people.
More information about influenza is available at http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/Influenza/Pages/default.aspx.
Health advice and information is also available via the free Health Direct Australia service, staffed by Registered Nurses 24 hours a day on 1800 022 222.
Here are some more tips to be winter wise this season:
Stay well! Good hygiene and behaviours such as hand washing can help reduce the spread of illness.
Catch it!Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
Bin it!Dispose of used tissues straight away.
Kill it!Wash your hands regularly, especially after you cough, sneeze or blow your nose.
Stay at home! You should also consider staying away from the workplace/school/child care to prevent spreading respiratory illnesses to others. Defer visits to friends and relatives in aged care facilities and hospitals if you have cold or flu symptoms. Also keep vulnerable people such as very young babies and the elderly away from crowded environments such as shopping centres. Stay at home to avoid infecting others until you are well.
Media enquiries:Brendan Williams, Media Manager, Western NSW Local Health District via firstname.lastname@example.org