NT Health is urging Territorians to get vaccinated against influenza (flu) following a surge in cases across Central Australia and similar spikes seen in the Top End earlier in the year.

Protecting yourself against flu is especially important as the number of visitors to the Northern Territory (NT) increases during peak tourist season.

A total of 1399 cases of influenza (flu) have been confirmed so far in the Northern Territory (NT) in 2023, three times more than the average over the past five years.

There were 142 cases notified across the NT in the last fortnight, a 23 per cent increase on the previous fortnight. 107 cases were in Central Australia, the biggest caseload so far this year.

There have been 231 hospitalisations and five deaths associated with influenza across the NT in 2023.

NT Health is encouraging Territorians to protect themselves from the flu and get vaccinated.

Flu can be more severe in infants and young children, and it is especially important for parents and guardians to ensure children are protected.

Influenza is a serious disease for pregnant women and newborns. The influenza vaccine is safe at any time during pregnancy and for breastfeeding mothers. Vaccination during pregnancy can protect both mothers and their baby.

Flu vaccination

All Territorians aged six months and over are encouraged to get the flu vaccine to reduce their risk of serious illness and hospitalisations.

The following groups are eligible for a free flu vaccine under the National Immunisation Program (NIP):

· anyone aged 65 years old and older

· all children aged six months to under five years old

· all Aboriginal people aged six months and older

· anyone aged six months and over with a chronic medical condition that may increase their risk of severe flu infection

· pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy – the vaccine can protect your baby for up to six months after birth.

Many workplaces provide flu vaccines to employees at no cost.

COVID-19 vaccine can be administered at the same time as flu vaccine and is recommended for people over 65 years of age and anyone 18-64 with medical comorbidities, disability or complex health needs

Seeking treatment for flu and influenza-like illness

Flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses share many symptoms. Flu often has an abrupt onset and symptoms include tiredness, fever, headache, chills, sore throat, loss of appetite, cough, runny nose, and sneezing.

Everyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness is advised to stay home and take a COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test. If you test positive for COVID-19, you are advised to stay at home and follow the NT advice for managing COVID-19 here.

Most colds and flu can be managed at home by resting, staying hydrated, and taking ibuprofen or paracetamol to relieve pain or fever. People experiencing flu or flu like symptoms should stay at home until symptoms resolve, or for at least 24 hours after having a fever.

If you are concerned about your symptoms contact your pharmacy, GP or call healthdirect on 1800 222 022.

People at risk of severe flu should consult with their GP as soon as they feel unwell. Treatments for influenza and COVID-19 are available for those at higher risk, but must be started early to be effective.

Severe cases of flu or respiratory infections may require hospital admission. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:

· difficulty breathing

· chest pain

· confusion

· severe vomiting

· fever with a rash.

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