IT has been an extremely bad season for colds and flu throughout our district, and most residents are aware of it, because most have struggled with illness!
Our local GPs and health centres have been kept extremely busy over the past month treating patients affected by influenza and colds, with symptoms ranging from mild to quite serious, and tending to hang on for ten days or more.
“Following the northern hemisphere’s intense winter, NSW Health is looking at a potentially serious flu season,” Director of Public Health Unit for Southern NSW Local Health District, Tracey Oakman said.
“This year we are particularly concerned about the likelihood of three strains of influenza – the H1N1, H3N2 and B strains – all circulating at the same time. This year’s influenza vaccine offers protection against these three strains.
“We have learnt from our very intensive work in addressing the spread of H1N1 that you can never start preparing too early.
“Our hospitals are equipped and preparing to manage the increased case load but we are urging people to be aware of how they can stay well during the influenza season and stay out of hospital.”
While flu and common colds are both respiratory illnesses, they are caused by different viruses.
Colds are the most common cause of illness in children and adults. There are over 200 types of viruses that can cause colds, but there are usually just two or three types of flu viruses circulating each year.
In general, the flu is worse than the colds, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense, and often start suddenly.
Colds are usually milder than the flu and symptoms generally develop over a longer period. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose, and a sore throat.
Ms Oakman said everyone, but particularly the high-risk and vulnerable, should:
•Get a plan - if you have a chronic disease such as asthma, plan ahead (eg. preventative asthma medication can take weeks to become effective).
•Get a jab - flu vaccine is free for people over 65 years of age; pregnant women; Aboriginal people aged 15 years or over; people with underlying medical conditions predisposing them to severe influenza.
•Get a GP - if unwell, see your GP or call Healthdirect (1800 022 222) to talk to a registered nurse. If you do have flu-like symptoms, call first so the clinic can take precautions to reduce the risk to other people.
•Get well - wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing and sneezing and stay at home if unwell.
During winter months, people with colds often turn to emergency departments, which face a seasonally-high case load of serious respiratory conditions, including influenza, pneumonia and severe asthma attacks.
In the first instance, people with a cold or flu-like symptoms should see their GP or contact Healthdirect (1800 022 222) to talk to a registered nurse - this will help avoid placing additional pressure on our hard-working emergency department teams.
“Working together we can ensure better health outcomes for everyone this winter,” Ms Oakman said.