Australia

Calls for hand sanitisers to fight flu as vaccinations urged for aged care visitors

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NSW health authorities are urging members of the public to get their flu shot after dozens of influenza outbreaks at residential care homes, as NSW Labor calls on the state government to adopt more measures to limit the spread of influenza.

New South Wales Labor is calling on the government of Gladys Berejiklian to increase measures to limit the spread of influenza.

Acting NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord wants the government to adopt a 'North American-style program calling on the Berejiklian government to put hand sanitisers in public places such as shopping malls and sporting venues to help limit the spread of the flu.

"Make no mistake, this is the worst flu season on record," he said in a statement on Saturday.

A NSW Health spokesman said measures are in place to limit the spread of the flu, with the state having one of the biggest uptakes of vaccination across the country.

More cases of flu

Almost 42,000 Australians were diagnosed with the virus last month while in June last year that number was under 2000. Latest figures show that 228 people have already died this year from flu complications.

Labor says there have been 66 confirmed deaths in NSW with more than 36,000 people infected.

It comes amid concern that one of the strains of flu - the H3N2 strain - has mutated. World Health Organisation Influenza Centre spokeswoman Professor Kanta Subbarao told News Corp the H3N2 virus is of concern "because it affects the very young and the elderly."

Aged care homes affected

Dozens of influenza outbreaks have hit NSW's aged care homes, often with fatal results, as health authorities plead with members of the public to get their flu shots.

NSW Health data released on Friday reveals 66 confirmed influenza deaths in the six months to June 30.

Of these, 26 were in residential care facilities and had other significant health issues.

The state's residential care facilities have reported 112 outbreaks this year, with 26 in the latest reporting week.

WA flu deaths double within a week as influenza disease notifications spike to new high
WA flu deaths double within a week as influenza disease notifications spike to new high.
Pixabay / Bru-nO

A mental health facility and a hospital were also hit with flu outbreaks in the past week.

NSW Health said unwell visitors may be putting their loved ones at risk.

"While we acknowledge the importance of visiting family members and friends in aged-care facilities, if you are unwell with the flu we are asking people to stay home and minimise contact with other people if possible, until you have recovered," NSW Health communicable diseases director Vicky Sheppeard said in a statement.

Dr Sheppeard also called on NSW residents to get vaccinated.

"It is not too late to get vaccinated, we want to remind people that the flu vaccine is still the best protection, so please take advantage of the free jab," she said.

The warning comes after a nursing home at Unanderra, near Wollongong, was placed in lockdown following an outbreak which began on the June long weekend.

Flu vaccination
NSW health authorities are urging people to get the flu jab and avoid aged care homes if infected. (AAP)
AAP

Approximately 20 residents and 20 staff have presented with flu symptoms, manager Robert O'Shea told AAP on Wednesday.

Five residents were hospitalised and three died.

The facility is no longer in "outbreak control", a NSW Health spokeswoman told AAP on Friday.

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