Unprecedented summer flu numbers spark winter concerns
A WA health expert has urged people to get their flu vaccines, as an unprecedented number of summer flu cases already in WA sparks cause for concern.
Earlier this month Health Minister Roger Cook described it as a ‘tough season’ ahead.
Figures for April show almost 500 cases reported that month – three times as the same period last year, which was a mild flu season for WA.
The April figure is 2.5 times the year-to-date average for the past five years.
Communicable Disease Control senior medical advisor Paul Effler said a rise in summer flu cases was unusual.
“We haven’t seen this before and I would say that the fact it is unusual makes us concerned,” Dr Effler said.
“It doesn’t guarantee we are going to have a heavy flu season but the fact it is different than the past makes us think we do need to be prepared.
“The one thing we do know for certain is the best way to protect yourself is with the flu vaccination.”
The peak for flu season is still expected to be July to August.
Dr Effler said they should have ample supplies of vaccines this year, with slightly more than 5000 doses ordered last year and 6000 doses this year.
While the vaccine is free through government programs, some immunisation providers may charge a consulting fee.
People not eligible for the free vaccine can still obtain it, for a nominal cost, via their GP or at participating pharmacists.
Dr Latha Kumar said at Park Medical Group, in East Victoria Park, a dedicated flu vaccine clinic has been set up with more nurses are rostered for this purpose.
“Symptoms of influenza range from fevers, sore throat, runny nose, body aches and chills to serious complications like pneumonia, hospitalisation, with risk of death in certain age groups,” Dr Kumar.
People at risk of serious health complication if they contract influenza are eligible for free flu vaccines each year.
These at-risk groups include young children, people aged 65 years and over, Aboriginal people, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions.
May to early June is the right time for people to get the flu vaccine to remain protected through Western Australia’s peak flu season.
Images of Health Minister Roger Cook's visit to Park Medical Group in June 2019