FLU ALERT: It might be the end of winter but health experts are warning the community to keep safe with a flu shot.
FLU ALERT: It might be the end of winter but health experts are warning the community to keep safe with a flu shot. SAM MOOY

How you can avoid catching the flu

IT MIGHT be the end of winter but influenza is still around.

NSW Health is urging people to remain vigilant to the symptoms of flu with changing weather conditions, as August is usually the peak month for spreading flu in NSW.

NSW Health's Director of Communicable Disease, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said we had an unusually early start to the flu season and it is still not over.

"While the flu season may have passed its peak a few weeks ago, this is often the time when we see substantial spread of the virus,” Dr Sheppeard said.

"So far this year we have seen a moderate season but the flu is still around and people can't afford to be complacent.

"There have been 21 additional deaths reported this week, including three in people under the age of 60 years, bringing the annual total to 168 confirmed influenza deaths.”

The latest weekly Influenza Surveillance Report shows 5,286 flu cases for the week ending 18 August, down from 6,536 notifications the previous week, taking the yearly total to 84,557.

Dr Sheppeard said it's important everyone remembers to take simple precautions against the flu.

"The most effective steps include staying at home if you are sick, washing your hands regularly and covering coughs and sneezes,” Dr Sheppeard said.

"Remember it's not too late to vaccinate. The flu can affect people of all age groups, even those who are fit and healthy.”

Dr Sheppeard said 2.5 million doses of Government-funded flu vaccines have been distributed across NSW, including over 212,000 doses for children six months to three years, and 1.18 million doses for people 65 years and over.

A free vaccine is still available for eligible people who have not yet had their shot.

Flu shots are free under the National Immunisation Program for pregnant women, people over 65 years of age, Aboriginal people and those with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart problems.