Labor’s NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord has called for a campaign to combat the anti-vaxxer movement on the North Coast following the release of figures showing the region is being ‘smashed’ by influenza.
Mr Secord said outside Sydney, the north coast has the highest number of cases of the flu, with 13.7 per 100,000 people being affected. Only Western Sydney and Sydney’s north shore had higher rates in NSW.
‘This follows a major whooping cough outbreak in May where there were almost 40 confirmed cases in a single week,’ Mr Secord said.
He attributed the higher rates of infection on the north coast to ‘small elements in the community who are reluctant to get vaccinations for themselves and loved ones’.
‘As of today for 2017, there have been almost 6,550 (6,548) cases State-wide including 2,576 notifications in June, almost double the number of flu notifications in June last year,’ he said.
‘In NSW, so far, this year, there have been 18 influenza outbreaks in nursing homes with at least 246
residents with flu symptoms and 25 hospitalisations. Fourteen deaths have been linked to these outbreaks – but they also had significant co-morbidities.’
Mr Secord said the State Government knew the flu season was on the way, but it was not prepared – with data showing that presentations exceeded the seasonal threshold for influenza-like illnesses in emergency departments.
‘The flu season is smashing NSW emergency departments and it is only going to get worse,’ he said.
‘Due to the State Government’s failure to properly prepare, the additional flu patients in emergency department mean other patients have to wait longer.
‘The last thing that the NSW health and hospital system needs is to see hundreds of extra patients pouring into emergency departments with preventable flu symptoms.
‘The health and hospital system is already at breaking point. It is under enormous pressure.’
Meanwhile, the North Coast Public Health Unit has today confirmed that the annual flu season had arrived early on the region.
The unit has received 393 flu notifications in the first six months of this year, including 174 notifications for the month of June.
‘The flu season is expected to peak in the coming weeks, so now is a good time to get vaccinated if you haven’t already done so,’ Director of North Coast Public Health, Paul Corben, said.
‘This year’s flu vaccine covers the four influenza strains circulating in Australia.
‘Flu vaccination is free for higher-risk groups, including pregnant women, people with certain chronic medical conditions – such as severe asthma, diabetes or heart disease – and Aboriginal people aged six months to five years, or over 15 years,’ Mr Corben said.
‘Vaccination is the best protection against seasonal influenza. Those eligible for a free vaccine should make an appointment with their local doctor as soon as possible. Other people should see their GP or chemist.’