An influenza outbreak in the Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLDH) has left health authorities urging people to steer clear of those most vulnerable.
The number of confirmed cases of the flu in the region have spiked, with nine times more cases this year when compared to the same time during 2018.
MLDH director of public health Tracey Oakman said there had been 153 confirmed cases so far this year, compared to 16 cases for the same time period last year.
Ms Oakman said originally the flu vaccine was going to be available from May 1, but due to the increase in cases it was being delivered to pharmacies and GPs now.
"Around 1000 people in NSW will die every year from the flu or its complications," Ms Oakman said.
"Most of them are elderly and they'll have these underlying chronic conditions."
Ms Oakman encouraged anyone with flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough and runny nose, to stay at home rather than go to work, so long as they are well enough.
"Just make sure you cough or sneeze into a tissue or the crook of your arm, and make sure you wash your hands," she said.
Deliveries of the government-funded 2019 influenza vaccine have commenced, and will be received by general practitioners, Aboriginal medical services and aged care facilities during the coming weeks. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advises that optimal protection occurs within the first three to four months following vaccination.
People are encouraged to check with their medical practitioner to ensure they have received the correct vaccine for their age group prior to making an appointment.
Who can receive the vaccine for free?
There are a number of people who can receive the influenza vaccination free of charge. These groups of people are generally those who have poorer outcomes if they acquire the flu. They include:
- Children from six months up to five years of age
- Aboriginal people six months and older
- Pregnant women
- People with serious underlying health conditions
- People aged 65 years and older