Influenza Spike in Central Australia

Central Australians are being urged to protect themselves against influenza even though it is late in the flu season.

Over the past three weeks there has been an unseasonal increase in influenza cases in the centre and the Central Australia Health Service is asking local residents to be alert to the possibility of flu in your community.

“Cases were first seen in Alice Springs but are now spreading to remote areas,” said Dr Belinda Greenwood Smith, Coordinator, Public Health Unit – Disease Control.

“This is very late in the year compared to our usual season, but it is never too late to get vaccinated, particularly if you are in a group considered to be high risk.”

High risk groups include the following:

  • Adults over 65 years of age.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people over 15 years of age.
  • Children under five.
  • People with chronic medical conditions.
  • Women who are pregnant or within two weeks of delivery.

“The flu vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine, and you can still get vaccinated at your local pharmacy or at your GP,” Dr Greenwood Smith said.

The influenza vaccine is FREE for the following:

  • All children aged six months to five years.
  • All Aboriginal people aged six months and over.
  • People aged 65 years and older.
  • Pregnant women during any stage of pregnancy.
  • People aged six months and over with conditions predisposing them to complications from influenza.

It’s important to remember adults are infectious from the day prior to and up to seven days after the onset of symptoms, while children may remain infectious for 10 days.

The flu causes high fevers, runny nose, headache, severe muscle and joint aches. It can also cause a cough, sore throat and gastro-intestinal upset. These symptoms are likely to continue for several days with people ending up in bed, missing work or not able to enjoy their holidays.

Source: NT Government