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It’s not too late to stop the spread of deadly flu

About 300 people across Australia have already died from the flu this year. Health Victoria yesterday released alarming figures revealing there had already been 34 923 confirmed cases of the flu compared to the 2851 reported cases this time last year. Goulburn Valley Health’s Dr Carolyn Kamenjarin said the hospital emergency department had seen an increase of people presenting with the flu. ’We have had quite significantly increased presentations as compared to previous years,‘ Dr Kamenjarin said. ’Some have been quite unwell and others can be discharged.“ The increase in the reported number of flu cases is linked to the early presence of influenza in the community. Goulburn Valley Health infection control consultant Elizabeth Smith said flu had been prevalent across the Shepparton region. ’We have had low levels of flu right through the summer and we have seen it steadily rising until the last couple of weeks,‘ Ms Smith said. ’It has now started to plateau off a little bit and we are seeing that the numbers are starting to reduce.“ Although flu trends are unpredictable, the virus usually continues to peak until late August. Dr Kamenjarin said the region’s health centres had been filled with people presenting with flu-like symptoms. ’Often presentations in the emergency department are people who are more unwell. There’s also bit of a problem that it is hard to get into a general practitioner sometimes,‘ she said. ’So it’s not always people coming straight to ED, the GPs have been quite full as well.“ The hospital is urging people who have not been vaccinated against this year’s virus to have the flu shot so the community can practice herd immunity. Herd immunity is the idea that if the majority of the population is vaccinated, it will significantly reduce the spread of the virus, especially to people who are most vulnerable. Ms Smith said the best defence against the virus was to get the flu vaccination. ’People who are elderly, ladies who are pregnant, babies and people with a respiratory disease are much more vulnerable to the flu,‘ she said. The Murray Football League has done its bit to minimise the spread of the deadly virus. During Saturday’s clash between Rumbalara and Katandra, televised commercials of the flu prevention methods were aired and pocket packets of tissues were handed out to spectators. City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Kim O’Keefe was at the game to help the teams spread the word about flu prevention. ’Raising awareness of the flu and the potential dangers it carries is crucial to keeping our community safe,‘ Cr O’Keefe said. ’There are simple measures each of us can take to help stop the spread of influenza, starting with simply sneezing into our elbows. ”It is never too late to be vaccinated, so I encourage residents to think about inquiring about immunisation.‘

Morgan Dyer

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