Death toll reaches 63 this flu season
Health authorities are urging everyone to get their influenza vaccines, with this year's flu season already claiming a total of 63 lives in NSW and Victoria alone.
The number of flu-related deaths hit 26 in Victoria this week, including three children. And NSW Health's Director of Communicable Diseases, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said there have already been 37 flu-related deaths in NSW since January.
Among the other states, Queensland's death toll from the flu currently stands at 25 and South Australia's at 17.
Authorities are urging people to get their shots as soon as possible, with confirmed flu cases increasing by the week. The latest reports show 1320 confirmed flu cases for the week ending 19 May, higher than the 979 notifications in the previous week.
"The best weapon against flu is vaccination and right now is the best time to have it as the flu season is already here," Dr Sheppeard said. "It's important to get your flu shots now as it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to provide full protection and children under nine years of age having the shot for the first time require two doses, one month apart."
While all are susceptible to influenza if exposed to someone who's sick, NSW Health says children are most at risk.
"Children are particularly susceptible to flu so parents and carers are being urged to take up the offer of the free flu vaccine for children aged from six months up to five years under the NSW Government's $2.6 million program," said Dr Sheppeard.
"There are ample supplies of influenza vaccine and we urge parents of children under 5 years of age and others vulnerable to influenza to visit their GP as soon as possible."
The government is said to be dropping a record $22.75 million on statewide immunisation programs, which includes $2.6 million worth of free flu shots (for children up to five years old) and a $1.5 million immunisation and influenza awareness campaign.
Flu shots are also 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.
Experts recommend getting jabbed around mid-May, as research indicates most flu cases occur between June and September.