24 August 2011
Cases of influenza are increasing in Central Australia signalling the beginning of the flu season in the Territory, according to the Centre for Disease Control's Dr Peter Markey.
"The season has arrived in other states and is likely to spread to the rest of the Territory over the next few weeks," he said.
"Once the season starts flu travels and spreads quickly but there are several steps you can take to protect yourself and others.
"It's important to practice good hygiene by covering your cough or sneeze with your arm, elbow or a tissue, washing your hands frequently with soap or an antiseptic gel and if you are feeling unwell staying at home until you're better. These actions have been shown to reduce the spread of respiratory infections.
"Vaccination is another way of preventing flu and we urge Territorians who have not received the 2011 flu vaccine to take this opportunity to do so".
Dr Markey added that it takes two weeks for the body to produce a protective immune response after receiving a flu vaccination.
"Flu vaccinations need to be updated each year, so if you received the vaccine in 2010 you still need this year's vaccine to ensure you're protected. It is not too late to get vaccinated."
The advice to be vaccinated applies particularly to people whose health status places them at increased risk of serious complications of influenza.
"The main risk groups include pregnant women, Aboriginal people aged 15 years or over, anyone aged 65 years or over, and anyone 6 months and older with a chronic medical condition," Dr Markey said.
"It is important to note that the seasonal flu vaccine is safe for women at any stage of their pregnancy."
Chronic medical conditions include cardiac disease, chronic respiratory conditions, chronic illnesses such as diabetes, chronic neurological conditions or impaired immunity. The group also includes children on long-term aspirin therapy.
"We urge everyone, especially people at risk of flu complications, to contact their Community Care Centre or GP for a flu vaccination," Dr Markey said.
For influenza vaccine information go to -http://www.health.nt.gov.au/Flu/Vaccination/index.aspx
Media contact: Bridget Wild - 0419 818 414